— Bud Norman
— Bud Norman
We right-wingers grouse mostly about the government, and tend to wax enthusiastic about the virtues of the private sector, but deep in our conservatives souls we know that almost every segment of our civilization is decline. A new poll from the Gallup organization, which measured how much trust Americans place in 16 important institutions, suggests that the view is widely shared.
Only the military fared especially well, with 75 percent of the respondents saying they trusted it “a great deal” or “quite a lot” and only 6 percent saying they trust it very little or not at all. The armed forces have traditionally been highly esteemed in Gallup’s annual survey, but scored an unusually high favorability rating this year. We suspect the military’s public image has lately benefited not only from its heroic efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but also because the media tend to treat its inevitable missteps more calmly when the Commander in Chief is from the right party.
Small business enjoys a respectable approval rating of 63 percent, with only 6 percent saying they trust it little or not at all, but that likely reflects a romanticized notion of the humble mom-and-pop store. Many small businesses are lousy, of course, and in some cases the proprietors are also lousy parents, but they’re rarely portrayed as villains in the popular culture and the failings of a small business are not big news. The police are trusted a great deal by 56 percent and not trusted at all by only 16 percent, which is not bad for an institution that hands out speeding tickets, but there are almost certainly some police forces out there that are bringing down the average.
Organized religion is trusted a great deal by only 44 percent of Americans, with 26 percent saying they trust it very little or not at all. Those numbers probably overstate how secularized America has become, as the non-trusting category will include many evangelicals who regard the mainline churches as too squishy and many mainline congregants who regard the evangelicals as too rigid, but it does suggest that Americans realize that the churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have all failed in their mission of inculcating moral behavior.
The medical system fares even worse, with only 41 percent expressing a great deal of trust, a 2 percent decline from last year, and 26 percent having little or no trust in the institution. It is not surprising that the government’s efforts at reforming the medical system have not improved its standing, given that the presidency and the Supreme Court are even less trusted, with only 37 percent having a great deal of trust in either institution, and a full 36 percent having very little or no trust in the presidency. The public schools and the criminal justice system, two institutions that are increasingly intertwined, are trusted a great deal by only 29 percent of Americans. Newspapers are trusted a great deal by a mere 25 percent of Americans, television news by 21 percent, and it’s likely that most of those are products of the public schools.
Banks and big business are trusted by only 21 percent, which is not surprising given the way they have been demonized in the pop culture for the past many decades, but organized labor is trusted by the same low number of Americans despite a sustained propaganda campaign, so it’s hard to guess who people will be rooting for in a strike. Health maintenance organizations, which we had previously assumed were part of the medical system, are trusted a great deal by only 19 percent of Americans, perhaps because there are no mom-and-pop HMOs.
Congress comes in last, as it has every year regardless of which party holds the majorities, and with both parties currently reigning in one chamber there is now something for every to distrust, but the 13 percent of respondents who have a great deal of trust is nonetheless a damning number.
— Bud Norman