March 13th, 2015 // 11:02 am @ Oliver DeMille
A Major Change in America
We have a trust crisis in America. Specifically, we don’t trust our major institutions. For example, consider the current American view of government. A Gallup poll asked, “How much of the time do you think you can trust government in Washington to do what is right?”
The response? Only 19% of Americans highly trust government “most of the time.” And, a full 81% don’t trust the government to do the right thing most of the time. That’s huge.
In a 2013 Pew Research Center Poll, 53% of Americans said that the federal government “threatens their personal rights and freedoms.” In fact, for the most part, the more educated people are, the less they believe “Washington will do the right thing most of the time.”
When asked “which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future: big business, big labor, or big government?,” only 26% said big business while 64% said big government. And 83% of Americans said they are “dissatisfied” with “the way the nation is being governed.”
But is doesn’t stop with Washington.
Trust and Angles
Only 25% of Americans have high “trust in the police,” the same amount as those who have great trust in churches/organized religion. A mere 17% have high trust in the medical system, and even less, 12%, have such trust in the public schools. The percentage with high trust in the banks is 10. As important as these institutions are in modern American life, these numbers are dismal.
Indeed, a mere 12% of Americans have high trust in the Supreme Court, only 14% in the presidency, and 4% in Congress. Only 10% have high trust in the criminal justice system, and only 10% have great trust in organized labor. Among adult Internet users in the United States, only 7% trust social media.
This lack of significant trust reflects a major shift in American views. For example, consider the following comparison of institutional trust in 2014 versus 1975 (Op Cit.):
|INSTITUTION||% OF AMERICANS WITH HIGH TRUST IN 1975||% OF AMERICANS WITH HIGH TRUST IN 2014|
|The Medical System||44||17|
|The Supreme Court||20||12|
Looking at this from another angle, only 19% of Americans really trust the federal government and only 19% have high trust in their state government. In other words, we see our state governments in the same negative light as Washington. And only 25% of Americans have high trust in their local governments.
If modern Americans don’t feel that they can trust their local or state governments, schools, the media, banks, Wall Street, the justice system, the police, the courts, Congress, the White House, the Internet, doctors, or churches—who can they trust?
The Status of an Era
As a 2015 TV Guide article put it: “A 2014 Harvard University poll revealed that only 11 percent of Millennials [those born between 1984 and 2001] trust the media to do the right thing most of the time.” And only 8% of Americans have high trust in the news they read on the Internet.
One area of more positive support: When asked to rate certain institutions as “positive” or “negative”, 95% of Americans ranked small business as positive and only 49% said big business was positive. The federal government was ranked positive by 46%, and “Entrepreneurs” by 84%.
In short, most people trust small businesses more than any other institution listed above, more than their local, state, or federal government or any branch of government, and more than the media, health care, public schools, banks, newspapers, the Internet, or churches.
What does this mean for our future? Can we solve our major national problems or overcome serious challenges without strong bonds of societal trust?
And, in fact, do such levels of distrust actually fuel additional problems? Is the mistrust itself a cause of deeper struggles? Meaning: will every difficulty quickly spin into crisis, simply because the level of suspicion and cynicism won’t allow us to come together and work toward constructive solutions? This isn’t just a Washington problem, it’s a true societal problem.
One thing is certain: the era of major trust in big institutions is clearly over.