American confidence in Congress drops to record low, says Gallup

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Confidence in Congress among Americans has decreased once again in 2014 to the lowest point in more than 40 years.

Only 7% of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress as an institution, according to a new Gallup poll released Thursday. The number represents a drop from the previous record of 10% in 2013.

This most recent lack of confidence in Congress is in stark contrast from the 42% approval rating in 1973, the first year Gallup began tracking the question.

Gallup used the annual survey, taken June 5-8 poll with a random sample of 1,027 adults from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, to gauge confidence in 17 U.S. institutions with which citizens regularly interact, such as government, business, and society. The poll tracked feeling about small business, the police, the U.S. Supreme Court, banks, the American healthcare system as well as online, broadcast and print media.

The survey was the first time Gallup has ever measured single digit confidence in any major U.S. organization. Of all the institutions surveyed, Congress ranked the lowest, with 4% of Americans saying they have a “great deal of confidence” in Capitol Hill, and 3% have quite a lot of confidence.

About one-third of all respondents report “some” confidence, while about half have “very little,” and another 7% have “none.”

In the 41-year history of tracking confidence in Congress, there have been a number ups and downs; highest levels (in the low 40s) were recorded in both the 1970s and the mid-1980s, and were on the rise in the late 1990s and early 2000s. For the past decade, opinion on elected officials has been on the decline, leading to 2014’s record lows.

At the top of the Gallup list of organizations was the military, with 74% of Americans reporting either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence. Another 20% of Americans have “some” confidence in the military. Only seven percent have very little or no confidence. These levels are significantly higher than the average 67% rating the military received when first measured in 1975. The lowest came in 1981, when about half of Americans had high levels of confidence in the military.

Since 1989, the military has ranked at the top in all but one year. Before that, churches or organized religion typically finished first. This year, they have 45% confidence.

Over time, the percentage of Americans confident in the military has generally increased while confidence in Congress has dropped.

Rebecca Rifkin of Gallup notes that the absence of public confidence in elected leaders continues to point to the challenges facing incumbents in the upcoming midterm elections — as well as a general challenge to the foundation of the nation’s overall representative democracy.

Methodology, complete question responses, and trends of the Gallup survey are also available online.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.