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U.S.: Leader or Loser in the G7?

by Benedict Vigers

LONDON -- For the first time in almost two decades of polling, the United States now lags behind most of the other leading industrialized nations in the G7 across a range of Gallup indicators. The U.S. trails several G7 countries when it comes to its own people’s confidence in the national government and key institutions -- including the military and the judiciary -- as well as the ability of its people to meet their basic needs.

Americans No Longer Most Confident in Military

Since 2006, Americans’ confidence in the nation’s military has stood out among the G7. Even though it continues to spend more on its military than most nations on Earth combined, Americans’ confidence in their armed forces dipped to a new low of 81% in 2023, for the first time falling significantly below the ratings of another G7 member country (France).


These results mirror the decline in Americans’ confidence in the military observed in other Gallup polling in 2023. More recently, in February 2024, Americans were split in their views of funding the military and national defense. Similar proportions felt that the government was spending too little (29%), too much (35%) and about the right amount (33%) on defense.

Judging Courts More Harshly

Americans have been losing confidence in their judicial system every year since 2020, dropping to 42% in 2023. While it was similarly low in 2016, the U.S. is now statistically tied with Italy as the G7 country with least faith in its judiciary. For years, Italy has lagged significantly behind the rest of the G7 on this measure -- but recent increases alongside U.S. decreases have brought about this shift in the rankings.


Cooling Confidence in the National Government

2022 marked the first time that the U.S. and the United Kingdom sat at the bottom of G7 rankings for confidence in national government, having both been highest at the outset of the World Poll nearly two decades ago. One year later, the picture remains unchanged. Americans (30%) and Britons (33%) still have less confidence in their national governments than residents in most of the G7.


Americans’ confidence in their national government has dropped to levels similar to this several times before (2013, 2016, 2018), and they are far from the lowest levels on record (Italy hit 15% in 2013). However, with the presidential election looming in November -- and the U.K. general election also taking place sometime before January 2025 -- these figures could be headwinds for both President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in their reelection bids.

U.S. Gives Poorest Performance on National Institutions Index

Given these realities, the U.S. now ranks last on the National Institutions Index compared with the rest of the G7. The National Institutions Index is a composite measure of the confidence a country's residents have in key national institutions such as the military, the judicial system, the national government and the honesty of elections.

In 2006, the U.S. topped the index among G7 countries, scoring 63 out of a possible 100. In 2022, it ranked at the bottom for the first time on record, scoring 53, and consolidated its position with a decline to 49 last year.


U.S. Continues to Top G7 for Inability to Afford Food

The U.S. continues to rank above the rest of the G7 in the proportion of its residents struggling to afford food. Every year since 2009, the U.S. has been at the top (or tied at the top) of the G7 for inability to afford food at times in the previous year. Last year, more than one in four Americans (26%) struggled to afford food at times, far above second-place Canada (17%).


Bottom Line

Across several World Poll indicators, the U.S. performs worse than its G7 counterparts. In years gone by, residents of the U.S. had more confidence in their government, military and other key institutions than residents of its allies had in theirs. But the U.S. has lost its edge, and last year slipped behind other countries in the G7.

The U.S. remains the dominant voice of the G7 on the global stage. But the reality of public opinion at home is starting to tell a different story: one in which the U.S. no longer stands out as a leader in confidence in institutions, fundamental to its democracy.

Find out how the world views the U.S. and Germany in the coming Rating World Leaders report out on April 23.

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