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Confidence in Congress Stays at Lowest Point in Almost Fifty Years

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.

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

Click to view table full screen
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

Click to view table full screen
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

Click to view table full screen
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

Click to view table full screen
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

Click to view table full screen
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 42 43 42 30 34
Major educational institutions such as colleges & universities 61 37 33 44 40 36 31 37 41 33 36
The U.S. Supreme Court 50 23 28 33 40 28 22 29 29 28 27
Organized religion 41 27 30 36 32 32 24 29 24 20 22
The White House X X X 18 28 X 11 31 14 15 18
Public schools X 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 X
Television news X X X 41 31 35 28 28 35 37 29
Organized labor 22 14 15 20 18 14 10 14 15 10 14
Major companies 55 27 27 29 21 19 16 20 22 18 16
Law firms X X X 24 18 16 12 14 18 16 13
The press 29 18 18 30 25 26 20 18 23 28 19
Wall Street X X X X X X X X X X 12
Congress 42 19 21 X 18 13 9 17 10 18 18
The executive branch of the federal government 41 23 27 19 28 13 11 23 14 17 17
HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX* 100 58 59 69 64 55 44 55 55 50 49

X = Not asked; * see methodology

TABLE 3
CONFIDENCE IN INSTITUTIONS; AVERAGE FOR INDEX IN EACH DECADE

Click to view table full screen
1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
1980 49 1990 50 2000 59 2010 53
1971 58 1981 51 1991 45 2001 55 2011 48
1972 59 1982 46 1992 45 2002 65 2012 49
1973 69 1983 53 1993 47 2003* 57
1974 64 1984 63 1994 43 2004 55
1975 55 1985 51 1995 43 2005 53
1966 100 1976 44 1986 51 1996 47 2006 52
1977 55 1987 53 1997 42 2007 53
1978 55 1988 50 1998 54 2008 44
1979 50 1989 46 1999 60 2009 54
AVERAGE FOR
DECADE
100 57 51 48 55 50

*Completed in December 2002


TABLE 4
CONFIDENCE LEVELS – BY PARTY
“As far as people in charge of running … 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

Click to view table full screen
Total Party ID
Republican Democrat Independent
% % % %
The military 55 65 52 55
Small business 50 58 43 55
Medicine 34 33 39 33
Major educational institutions, such as colleges and universities 30 25 37 26
The U.S. Supreme Court 27 29 25 28
Organized religion 23 33 22 18
The White House 22 6 39 16
Public schools 21 16 29 21
The courts and the justice system 19 20 23 17
Television news 17 10 25 14
Organized labor 16 7 26 14
Major companies 15 19 12 15
Law firms 12 10 17 9
The press 11 5 17 10
Wall Street 7 6 7 7
Congress 6 5 8 5

Methodology

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone and online, within the United States between April 9 and 17, 2012 among a nationwide cross section of 2,060 adults (aged 18 and over). The interviews conducted by telephone (1016) included a nationwide cross section of adults with landlines in their households.  The interviews conducted online (1044) included a nationwide sample who have agreed to take part in Harris Interactive surveys, and who indicated not having a landline (i.e., cell phone only), or using their cell phone for almost all of their calls (cell phone mostly), and thus were included to ensure representation of these groups that are lacking among a traditional RDD telephone sample.  Telephone data only were adjusted to ensure appropriate representation on number of telephone/voice lines and number of adults in the household, and online data only were are adjusted by propensity to be online to correct for attitudinal/behavioral differences between our panel and those who respond via phone.  Finally, for the combined telephone and online data, figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, and phone status (cell phone only, cell phone mostly, dual users, landline mostly, landline only) were adjusted as necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.  Population proportions for demographic variables were acquired from the 2010 Current Population Survey, while phone status proportions were acquired from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

The Harris Interactive Confidence in Leadership Index measures changes in the public’s confidence in various institutions. It is derived in the following manner:

  1. The index is based on the mean value of the items asked.
  2. All items have equal weight.
  3. The year 1966, the first year the items were asked, was set as a reference year for the index and assigned a score of 100.
  4. In order to yield a score of 100 in 1966, the mean value of the original 10 items was multiplied by a factor of 2.11. This same factor was then applied to the mean score in subsequent years, as long as the same items were asked.
  5. Whenever a new item is added, the multiplication factor is changed so that the new item has no effect on that year’s score. The new factor is derived by calculating the index with and without the new item(s), taking the ratio of the two scores, and multiplying this ratio by the old factor. (The current factor is 2.14).
  6. In years when an item included in a previous year is not asked, it is assumed for calculation purposes that no change has occurred in that item since the last time it was asked.

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