WASHINGTON (PNN) - March 11, 2015 - Amerikans' 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% of Amerikans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11% in the executive branch, and 5% 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.
The 11% who say they're confident in the presidency approaches a record low measured by the same survey in 1996, when just 10% said they had a great deal of confidence in the executive branch. The 44% 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% of Republicans say they have a lot of confidence in the presidency, down from a record high 45% who said so in 2002, when overall confidence in the presidency was also at the highest point the survey has measured, at 27%. Then, President George W. Bush was still riding a crest of support in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.
But confidence among Democrats has dropped some in recent years, too, from 25% in 2010 to 18% in 2014.
Just 1 in 10 Independents expressed a lot of confidence in the presidency in 2014.
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% 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%, is also near an all-time low.
Independents are the least likely to have a great deal of confidence in the court, at 20%.
Overall, 2 in 10 say they have hardly any confidence in the court, a record high, while more than half have only some confidence.
If there's one issue than unites Amerikans, it's that hardly anyone has much confidence in Congress, the survey shows. Over half of Amerikans express hardly any confidence at all, while only 7% of Democrats, 5% of Independents, and 3% of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in Congress.
Younger Amerikans - those under 35 - are a bit more likely than older ones to express confidence in Congress, but even among that group only 10% say they have a lot of confidence in the legislative branch.
Confidence has decreased since the 1970s, when about a quarter of Amerikans expressed a great deal of confidence in the press. Now, a record low of 7% have a lot of confidence, while 44% have hardly any confidence at all.
Republicans are the least likely to express a lot of confidence in the press, at only 3%, but Democrats aren't far behind at 10%.
Only 1 in 10 has a lot of confidence in television, which is also near a record low.
Amerikans' confidence in banks and financial institutions reached an all-time low of 11% in 2010, but has rebounded slightly since then, with 15% now expressing a great deal of confidence. That's still far from the survey's all-time high of 42% in 1977.
Just 18% have a great deal of confidence in major companies, up a bit from 13% who said so in 2010 but down from 31% who said so in 1984.
Only 1 in 10 Amerikans has a lot of confidence in organized labor.
The General Social Survey is administered by NORC at the University of Chicago, with financing from the National Science Foundation, primarily using in-person interviewing. The GSS started in 1972 and completed its 30th round in 2014.
The typical sample size was 1,500 prior to 1994, but increased to 2,700-3,000 until 2008, and decreased to 2,000 for the most recent surveys. Resulting margins of error are between plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the smaller sample sizes and plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for the larger sample sizes at the 95% confidence level. The 2014 survey was conducted March 31-Oct. 11, 2014, among 2,538 Amerikan adults. The GSS 1972-2014 Cumulative File was used to produce the statistics presented.