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Major survey finds record low confidence in government, news media

First Published      Last Updated Mar 11 2015 03:00 pm

Washington • Americans' confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows, according to a major survey that has measured attitudes on the subject for 40 years.

The 2014 General Social Survey finds only 23 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11 percent in the executive branch and 5 percent in Congress. By contrast, half have a great deal of confidence in the military.

The survey is conducted by the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. Because of its long-running and comprehensive set of questions about the public, it is a highly regarded source of data about social trends. Data from the 2014 survey was released last week, and an analysis of its findings on confidence in institutions was conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the General Social Survey.




Five things to know about Americans' low confidence in the government and other institutions:

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DROP IN SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENCY DRIVEN BY REPUBLICANS

The 11 percent who say they're confident in the presidency approaches a record low measured by the same survey in 1996, when just 10 percent said they had a great deal of confidence in the executive branch. The 44 percent who now say they have hardly any confidence at all is at a record high.

Historically, and not surprisingly, the survey has found that Democrats have more confidence in the executive branch when the sitting president is a Democrat, and Republicans have more confidence when the president is a Republican. In the 2014 survey, just 3 percent of Republicans say they have a lot of confidence in the presidency, down from a record high 45 percent who said so in 2002, when overall confidence in the presidency was also at the highest point the survey has measured, at 27 percent. Then, President George W. Bush was still riding a crest of support in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But confidence among Democrats has dropped some in recent years, too, from 25 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2014.

Just 1 in 10 independents expressed a lot of confidence in the presidency in 2014.

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SUPREME COURT CONFIDENCE FALLING ACROSS PARTY LINES

The 2014 survey finds that confidence in the Supreme Court has fallen among Democrats, Republicans and independents since 2012, driving confidence in the court to a 40-year low overall. The 26 percent of Democrats with a lot of confidence in the court is a record low in the history of the survey, while Republican confidence in the high court, at 22 percent, is also near an all-time low.

Independents are the least likely to have a great deal of confidence in the court, at 20 percent.

Overall, 2 in 10 say they have hardly any confidence in the court, a record high, while more than half have only some confidence.

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NOBODY LIKES CONGRESS

If there's one issue than unites Americans, it's that hardly anyone has much confidence in Congress, the survey shows. Over half of Americans express hardly any confidence at all, while only 7 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of independents and 3 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in Congress.

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