Economy

This Is America's Least Trusted Institution

According to Merriam-Webster, trust is “one in which confidence is placed.” Does that include people? Impressions. “I can’t trust my own eyes.” Perhaps companies, industries or government? Research gold standard Gallup set out to get the answer.

Gallup has its own measure of what people think about institutions. It measures them vaguely based on whether people trust them “a great deal” or “quite a lot.” It sought its answers from 1,226 survey respondents, which it says is a satisfactory sample size. Its trust poll looked at 16 institutions. Only two institutions on the list garnered “a great deal” or “a lot” of trustworthiness above 70%, while three of them received confidence levels below 20%. Nine of these 16 institutions were ranked at or below the overall average of 38%.

The survey also looked at public perceptions between non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Black respondents. The widest spreads between the two race categories were found in the trust they put in police and the presidency. Whites ranked those two institutions above trust in churches and public schools, while Black Americans put trust in the presidency and the police near the bottom, along with the criminal justice system.

Trust in businesses was cut along a line based on size. Survey respondents said they considered small businesses as the most trustworthy institution in the country, but rank big businesses (such as publicly traded multinational corporations) among the least trustworthy.

To identify the most and least trusted American institutions, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the results of a Gallup poll of 1,226 U.S. adults 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, conducted between June 8 and July 24, 2020. Institutions are ranked on the share of adults who have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institution in question. Institutions are ranked from most to least trusted.

Among the 16 measured, Congress was the least trusted institution. The population with high confidence in the institution was only 13% of adults.

Trust in Congress tends to rise and fall depending on one thing above all else: the perception of gridlock. When Congress is viewed as helping average people, it is viewed more favorably. When Congress passed the $900 billion COVID-19 pandemic relief package in December, its public approval shot up. Yet, such bursts of approval are short-lived. According to this Gallup survey, federal lawmakers are the least trusted group of the 16 institutions.

Click here to see all of America’s most and least trusted institutions.