Special Report

The 14 Least Trusted Institutions in America

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Trust in the media has also fallen on hard times. The trust viewers had in people like CBS anchor Walter Cronkite has given way to skepticism about print, online, and TV news, which has lurched both right and left. The legal system, too, suffers from declining public trust. Prosecutors have become viewed as biased, also often based on political considerations. The view of America’s police departments may be the most negative of all time as evidence of pervasive racism grows.

A Gallup survey sought to measure the level of confidence Americans have toward 16 large institutions, and the results are not great. 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%. (See also: This is the American company with the worst reputation.)

The survey also looked at how public perceptions between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks differ. 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.

Confidence in the private sector shows one of the more interesting survey results. 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 least trusted American institution, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the results of Gallup’s Black, White Adults’ Confidence Diverges Most on Police 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.

The least trusted institution is the U.S. Congress. Only 13% of adults have high confidence in the institution. (See also: Companies bankrolling Congress members who didn’t certify the election.)

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 the average American, it is viewed more favorably. When Congress passed the $900 billion COVID-19 pandemic relief package in December, its public approval shot up. But such bursts of approval are short lived, and according to this Gallup survey, federal lawmakers are the least trusted group of the 16 institutions in question.

Click here to see America’s least trusted institution

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14. Military
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 61% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 75% of adults

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13. Small business
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 53% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 70% of adults

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12. Church
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 57% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 48% of adults

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11. Police
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 33% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 61% of adults

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10. Medical system
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 42% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 38% of adults

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9. U.S. Supreme Court
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 32% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 41% of adults

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8. Banks
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 33% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 37% of adults

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7. Public schools
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 35% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 34% of adults

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6. Television news
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 37% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 25% of adults

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5. Newspapers
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 33% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 27% of adults

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4. Organized labor
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 31% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 23% of adults

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3. Big business
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 24% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 21% of adults

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2. Criminal justice system
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 21% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 24% of adults

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1. Congress
> Black population with high confidence in the institution: 19% of adults
> White population with high confidence in the institution: 16% of adults

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