Americans' confidence in most major societal institutions has decreased since 2020 amid a tumultuous year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a heated presidential election and increased tension, Gallup's annual "Confidence in Institutions" poll shows.
The poll compared the levels of confidence Republicans and Democrats have in 16 of the leading American societal institutions. The poll is based on telephone interviews conducted June 1 through July 5 with a random sample of 1,381 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The sampling error has a margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The results indicated Republicans have more confidence than Democrats in the church or organized religion, military, police and small business. Democrats, however, showed higher levels of confidence in public schools, newspapers, large technology companies, Congress and the medical system.
In 2021, 37% of respondents said they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church or organized religion. About 51% of Republicans or those who lean Republican and 26% of Democrats or those who lean Democrats said the same.
Majorities of respondents from both parties (78% of Republicans and 62% of Democrats) said they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the military.
The largest partisan gap in confidence for any of the institutions listed was the presidency, where 62% of Democrats or Democrat leaners reported having a "great deal" or "quite a lot" confidence. In comparison, 13% of Republicans or Republican leaners said the same.
The second-largest partisan gap between the two leading parties was confidence in the police, with 45 percentage points separating the two parties. About 76% of Republicans reported having a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the police, while only 31% of Democrats said the same.
Both political parties showed little confidence in the media. But the poll suggests that Republicans are far more skeptical of both television news and newspapers.
Americans overall have the most confidence in small business, with 70% of all respondents saying they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence. Meanwhile, 69% said they have the same confidence levels in the military and 51% reported having similar confidence levels in the police. Forty-four percent of respondents said they have "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the medical system.
The institutions that scored the lowest percentages of Americans with a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence were Congress, television news, big business and the criminal justice system.
Confidence in the police was the only institution of the 16 measured with increased confidence from 2020 to 2021, a 3-percentage-point increase.
Of the 16 institutions measured, confidence in public schools saw the greatest overall drop of 9 percentage points from a 41% confidence in 2020 to a 32% confidence in 2021.
The survey comes as public school education has been a source of contention lately due to clashes over transgender policies, mask mandates, online learning and components of critical race theory slipping into curriculums across the country.
Congress or big business has reportedly ranked at the bottom of the list since 2007.
Megan Brenan, a research consultant at Gallup, wrote in her analysis that confidence levels seem to have leveled out to “more typical levels” from before the pandemic.
“In 2020, confidence in several specific institutions increased as the nation dealt with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” Brenan wrote. “These include some of the business and societal sectors most affected by the public health and financial effects of the coronavirus situation, including the medical system, public schools, small business, organized religion and banks."
“This year, these same five institutions show the greatest decreases in confidence,” she continued. “However, they all are perceived at least slightly better than they were in 2019 before the pandemic.”
Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com