Public Confidence in Congress Falls to Record Low

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Poll Also Shows Low Approval for the Corporate News Media and Organized Labor

By Glynn Wilson

Nevermind what you hear on Fox News and conservative talk radio. This tea party Republican Congress is the most reviled institution in American history, earning the lowest confidence level of any Congress or any other institution in the U.S. since survey researchers have been keeping tabs on the numbers.

According to the latest Gallup Poll, the American public’s confidence in Congress has fallen to 10 percent

“This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record,” Gallup says in its latest report on American public opinion.

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In spite of the disapproval of Americans for the war in Iraq and a strong domestic desire for the troops in Afghanistan to come home, the public remains the most confident in the U.S. military, with 76 percent ranking it the most trusted institution in American society.

Small business and the police also continue to rank highly in public approval and confidence, according to Gallup. Sixty-five percent of the American public say they have confidence in small businesses, while 57 percent express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in law enforcement agencies. This is a bit odd since only 34 percent express support for the Supreme Court and the criminal justice system is down to a 28 percent confidence level.

Strangely, Americans have become more confident in banks, in spite of the blow they took a few years back when the global economy nearly collapsed and they had to be bailed out by the federal government. Organized religion and public schools are also up on the scale of public confidence, although the U.S. medical system and the Supreme Court have moved down the list. While 36 percent have confidence in the institution of the presidency, only 35 percent seem to trust the medical system and only 34 percent now have confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Confidence Drops for News Outlets and Organized Labor

Joining Congress at the bottom of the list are television news outlets, newspapers and organized labor. Only 23 percent of the American public now trust television news outlets and newspapers to tell them the truth, while only 20 percent express confidence in labor unions, which is no surprise considering how negatively they are portrayed on television news and simply ignored by newspapers.

The number for organized labor is a bit surprising, and may reflect the drop off in coverage of union activity since the protests have largely ended after a big push two years ago beginning in Wisconsin. As recently as August, 2012, another Gallup poll showed a slight increase to 52 percent public approval for labor.

Republicans and Democrats Hold Congress in Low Esteem

Democrats, independents, and Republicans are about equally likely to express low confidence in Congress, Gallup’s data shows.

“This is a change from the past and likely reflects the split control of Congress,” according to Gallup, although they are being kind. What the public sees, even by the lame coverage they are fed by the mainstream media, is a do-nothing Congress that simply cannot agree to act on basic issues for the public good. They see a partisan Republican leadership controlled by big business interests which panders to the far-right contingent in the country, the tea partiers and racist white males in the American South and West.

Gallup’s Bottom Line

“Americans’ confidence in Congress is not only at its lowest point on record, but also is the worst Gallup has ever found for any institution it has measured since 1973,” the polling company says in its analysis of the numbers. “The divided Congress, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans the House, is likely part of the reason for the low levels of confidence … Democrats and Republicans express, and is tied to Americans’ frustrations with Congress’ inability to get much done.”

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-4, 2013, with a random sample of 1,529 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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