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The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The Intersection of Insight and Journalism

Confidence in Institutions: Trends in Americans’ Attitudes toward Government, Media, and Business

A collaborative analysis by the AP-NORC Center and the GSS staff using the 2014 General Social Survey shows that confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows.
A collaborative analysis by the AP-NORC Center and the GSS staff using the 2014 General Social Survey shows that fewer Americans report having a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court (23 percent) and Congress (5 percent) than at any other time in the last 40 years, and confidence in the executive branch is also near an all-time low (11 percent).

Confidence in the media remains at an all-time low with 7 percent of adults saying they have a great deal of confidence in the press and 10 percent reporting a great deal of confidence in television.

A significant majority of Americans do not have a great deal of confidence in either banks or major companies, but confidence has rebounded slightly from all-time lows in 2010. Confidence in organized labor has changed little in the last decade, and only about 1 in 10 Americans report a great deal of confidence in organized labor.

In comparison, confidence in the military remains high (50 percent report a great deal of confidence), and the percentages of Americans reporting a great deal of confidence in organized religion (19 percent), education (25 percent), medicine (38 percent), and the scientific community (41 percent) have been relatively stable in the last decade.

The GSS is administered by NORC at the University of Chicago, primarily using in-person interviewing. The GSS started in 1972 and completed its 30th round in 2014. For the last 40 years, the GSS has been monitoring societal change and the growing complexity of American society. The GSS is the largest project funded by the Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation. The typical sample size was 1,500 prior to 1994, but increased to 2,700-3,000 until 2008 and decreased to 2,000-2,500 for the most recent surveys. Resulting margins of error are between +/- 3.1 for the smaller sample sizes and +/- 2.2 percentage points for the larger sample sizes at the 95 percent confidence level. The GSS 1972-2014 Cumulative File was utilized to produce the statistics presented.

Four Things You Should Know
From the 2014 GSS Questions on Confidence in Institutions
  • Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows.
  • Confidence in the press remains at an all-time low with 7 percent of Americans saying they have a great deal of confidence in the press.
  • Americans’ confidence in business and banks is rebounding, but more than 4 in 5 still lack much confidence.
  • Americans continue to show steady levels of confidence in the scientific community; 41 percent report a great deal of confidence.

 Report

​Confidence in Institutions: Trends in Americans’ Attitudes toward Government, Media, and Business

 Link to the GSS Website