Poll: Americans Don't Trust Government Or Big Business


When it comes to the institutions that impact their lives, Americans say they have confidence in the military, their local police and mom-and-pop businesses -- but not much else, a new survey found.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll aimed to measure the way Americans think about major institutions, both public and private.

Health insurance companies have the dubious distinction of placing dead last, according to those polled, with only 12 percent saying they have either a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence in those institutions.

Only 16 percent said they have confidence in the news media, but social media sites like Facebook and Twitter fared worse, despite media companies embracing the platforms and hailing them as the most prominent delivery tools for news and information. Of those polled, 13 percent said they had confidence in Twitter, while Facebook fared only slightly better, with 15 percent.

Government institutions didn't score much higher -- and in some cases, Americans think even less of them.

Of those polled, 37 percent said they have confidence in the Supreme Court, but it's all downhill from there.

Only 34 percent expressed faith in their local governments. Public schools and state government weren't far behind, with 31 and 30 percent of respondents telling pollsters they believe in those organizations.

In late November, a CNN/ORC poll found that 57 percent of Americans approve of the way President Barack Obama is doing his job, the highest approval rating for the outgoing president since 2009, when Obama was still riding the goodwill of his campaign and was seen as a transformative figure.

But those warm feelings don't transfer to the federal government, the newer poll found, with only 22 percent of Americans telling WSJ/NBC that they have confidence in the feds.

And when it comes to Congress, Obama looks beloved in comparison -- a mere 16 percent of those polled said they have faith in the body of lawmakers. Still, a long-running paradox continues between a general loathing for Congress and incumbents retaining their seats.

In the 2016 race, 97 percent of incumbents were returned to Congress for another term by their constituents, according to a tally by OpenSecrets.org. Experts chalk up the disconnect to built-in advantages enjoyed by incumbents, including name recognition, a historical and sizable fundraising advantage over challengers, and incumbents banking appropriations cash to give out as gifts to local schools, firehouses and police stations during the campaign season.

In a 2013 column exploring the paradox, The Washington Post's Chris Cilizza summed up the attitudes of voters when it comes to Congress.

"The message from voters to Congress?" Cilizza wrote. "Throw the bums out. But not my bum."

Sources: NBC News, Politico, OpenSecrets.org, The Washington Post / Photo credit: WhiteHouse.gov/Wikimedia Commons

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