Americans’ confidence in Congress as an institution is down to 10%, which is the legislative body’s lowest ranking the and last on Gallup’s list of 16 societal institutions for the fourth straight year. Incredibly, this is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record. Americans remain most confident – 76% – in the institution that is the United States military.
Small business and the police, as usual, continue to rank highly, with 65% and 57% of Americans respectively, reporting to have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institutions. Sharing the bottom of the barrel with Congress are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and organized labor, which should have the GOP buzzing for the next few days at least.
Congress’ low position is actually worse off when you examine the percentage of Americans who have little or no confidence in each institution. The small but albeit majority of Americans – 52% – have this level of confidence in Congress, juxtaposed with 31% for HMOs.
In the Gallup survey, conducted from June 1 -4, Americans’ confidence in several institutions has shifted since last year’s measurement. Americans have become more confident in banks, organized religion, and public schools, and less confident in the U.S. medical system, the Supreme Court, and Congress.
Interesting to note is the overall precipitating drop in confidence experience by the Supreme Court, which prior to the decision over Obamacare, was relatively high. It dip experienced a small dip after Bush v. Gore, but it promptly recovered.
Confidence in Congress Falls to Record Low, But Did It Ever Measure High?
The percentage of Americans expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Congress is the lowest for any trend that dates back to 1973. The high point for Congress, which was 42% and certainly nothing to boast about, was measured in that year.
Confidence in Congress has been at its lowest points for several years, while it was higher in the mid-1980’s during the Reagan administration – Reagan and Tip O’Neil were known for their cooperation, and again in the early 2000’s when President Bush had a Republican Congress.
Gallup found that in Contrast to Past, Found Republicans and Democrats Both Hold Equally Negative Views
Gallup’s Elizabeth Mendes and Joy Wilke, write:
Democrats, independents, and Republicans are about equally likely to report that they hold a low confidence in Congress. This is a change from the past and likely reflects the split control of Congress.
Historically, members of each major party expressed greater confidence in Congress when their party held control of both houses. During most years of the Republican-controlled House and Senate in the early to mid-2000s, Republicans were at least slightly more likely than Democrats to express confidence in Congress. After the Democratic Party took over both houses in 2007, however, Democrats began reporting more confidence than Republicans in the institution.
Between 2009 and 2012, a period that saw Congress come under split control, these partisan differences gradually diminished, and this year, Democrats are a mere two percentage points more likely than Republicans to report having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.
Implications and the Bottom Line
Congress has managed quite a feat. 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. This low level of confidence is in line with Americans’ low job approval of Congress, which has also been stuck below 30% for years.
The divided Congress, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans the House, is most assuredly a cause for the low levels of confidence that partisan Democrats and Republicans report, and correlates to Americans’ negative views with Congress’ inability to cooperate.
Gallup says that it will explore the long-term trends in Americans’ confidence in other key institutions in future reports.