Confidence in Congress Stays at Lowest Point in Almost Fifty Years Confidence in the military and small business still at the top

NEW YORK, May 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Harris Poll has been measuring the confidence of the American public in the leaders of major institutions since 1966. After seeing drops in confidence in almost all institutions last year, there is some stability this year as well as some small upward levels of confidence. However, some institutions are still at all time lows. Again this year, only 6% of all adults have a great deal of confidence in the leaders of Congress.  Only one in ten Americans (11%) again this year say they have a great deal of confidence in the press.

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Based on all the responses to this poll we calculate the Harris Confidence Index. This year, the Index has gone up to 49 after falling to 48 last year, but still down from 53 in 2010 and 54 in 2009. 

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,060 adults surveyed by telephone and online between April 9 and 17, 2012 by Harris Interactive.   

Some of the main findings of this Harris Poll are:

  • At the top of the list, i.e. the largest numbers of people have a great deal of confidence in them, are the leaders of the military (55%) and small business (50%), far ahead of any of the other leaders on the list. These numbers have not changed significantly over the last three years;
  • Also high on the list, but substantially lower, are the leaders of medicine (34%), and colleges and universities (30%);
  • Not quite at the bottom of the list, but below the top institutions are the U.S. Supreme Court (27%, which is up from 24% last year), organized religion (23%), the White House (22% which is up from 19% last year), and public schools (21%); and,
  • At the bottom of the list, leaders in whom the public has the least confidence are Congress (6%), Wall Street (7%), the press (11%), law firms (11%), major companies (15%), organized labor (16%) television news (17%) and the courts and the justice system (19%).

So what?

While the confidence index rose one point and a couple of institutions saw small gains, very little has changed from last year. "The American public continues to be disgusted with the shenanigans of Congress and Wall Street," says Robert Fronk, EVP Reputation Management at Harris Interactive. "Forgiveness and respect will not return easily for these two entities." The stabilization in confidence is clearly a better outcome than the slide seen in the previous 3 years, but many of the institutions that form the backbone of our nation continue to be perceived as lacking in leadership, which does not bode well in the short term for our nation.


TABLE 1
CURRENT CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2011)
"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Base: All Adults


A Great Deal

of
Confidence

Only some

Confidence

Hardly Any

Confidence

At All

Not

Sure/Decline
to Answer

%

%

%

%

The military

55

33

8

4

Small business

50

38

7

5

Medicine

34

43

18

5

Major educational institutions, such as colleges and universities

30

47

19

4

The U.S. Supreme Court

27

50

18

5

Organized religion

23

38

30

8

The White House

22

40

34

4

Public schools

21

48

27

4

The courts and the justice system

19

54

23

4

Television news

17

48

31

4

Organized labor

16

42

35

7

Major companies

15

55

25

5

Law firms

12

51

30

8

The press

11

46

39

4

Wall Street

7

39

48

6

Congress

6

42

48

4

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 2A
CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2001-2012)
"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"
Those saying "A great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults


2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Change

2011-

2012

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

44

71

62

62

47

47

46

51

58

59

57

55

-2

Small business

X

X

X

X

47

45

54

47

48

50

50

50

0

Medicine

32

29

31

32

29

31

37

28

34

34

33

34

+1

Major educational institutions such as colleges and universities

35

33

31

37

39

38

37

32

40

35

30

30

0

The U.S. Supreme Court

35

41

34

29

29

33

27

25

28

31

24

27

+3

Organized religion

25

23

19

27

27

30

27

25

30

26

24

23

-1

The White House

21

50

40

31

31

25

22

15

36

27

19

22

+3

Public schools

X

X

X

X

26

22

22

20

25

22

20

21

+1

The courts and the justice

system

X

X

X

X

22

21

21

16

19

24

19

19

0

Television news

24

24

21

17

16

19

20

16

22

17

16

17

+1

Organized labor

15

11

14

15

17

12

15

11

16

14

15

16

+1

Major companies

20

16

13

12

17

13

16

14

11

15

13

15

+2

Law firms

10

13

12

10

11

10

13

10

11

13

11

12

+1

The press

13

16

15

15

12

14

12

10

12

13

11

11

0

Wall Street

23

19

12

17

15

15

17

11

4

8

7

7

0

Congress

18

22

20

13

16

10

10

8

9

8

6

6

0

The executive branch of the federal government

20

33

26

23

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX*

55

65

57

55

53

52

53

44

54

53

48

49

+1

X = Not asked; * see methodology

Note: Prior to 2011 this survey was conducted by telephone only; the 2011 survey was conducted prior to Osama bin Laden's death.


TABLE 2B
CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1991-2000)
"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"
Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults


1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

X

50

57

39

43

47

37

44

54

48

Small business

47

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Medicine

23

22

22

23

26

29

29

38

39

44

Major educational institutions such as colleges and universities

X

29

23

25

27

30

27

37

37

36

The U.S. Supreme Court

15

30

26

31

32

31

28

37

42

34

Organized religion

21

11

X

X

24

X

20

25

27

26

The White House

X

25

23

18

13

15

15

20

22

21

Public schools

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The courts and the justice system

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Television news

9

12

23

20

16

21

18

26

23

20

Organized labor

21

11

X

X

8

X

9

13

15

15

Major companies

20

10

16

19

21

21

18

21

23

28

Law firms

X

13

11

8

9

11

7

11

10

12

The press

X

X

15

13

11

14

11

14

15

13

Wall Street

14

13

13

15

13

17

17

18

30

30

Congress

9

16

12

8

10

10

11

12

12

15

The executive branch of the federal government

X

X

15

12

9

12

12

17

17

18

HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX*

45

45

47

43

43

47

42

54

60

59

X = Not asked; * see methodology


TABLE 2C
CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1981-1990)
"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"
Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults


1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Small business

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The military

28

31

35

45

32

36

35

33

32

43

Medicine

37

32

35

43

39

33

36

40

30

35

Major educational institutions such as colleges & universities

34

30

36

40

35

34

36

34

32

35

The U.S. Supreme Court

29

25

33

35

28

32

30

32

28

32

Organized religion

22

20

22

24

21

22

16

17

16

20

The White House

28

20

23

42

30

19

23

17

20

14

Public Schools

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The courts and justice system

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Television news

24

24

24

28

23

27

29

28

25

27

Organized labor

12

8

10

12

13

11

11

13

10

18

Major companies

16

18

18

19

17

16

21

19

16

9

Law firms

X

X

12

17

12

14

15

13

X

X

The press

16

14

19

18

16

19

19

18

18

12

Wall Street

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

8

21

Congress

16

13

20

28

16

21

20

15

16

14

The executive branch of the federal government

24

X

X

X

19

18

19

16

17

14

HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX*

51

46

53

63

51

51

53

50

46

50

X = Not asked; * see methodology


TABLE 2D
CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1966-1980)
"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"
Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults


1966

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

61

27

35

40

33

24

23

27

29

29

28

Small business

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Medicine

73

61

48

57

50

43