Government Legitimacy in Decline: Confidence in All Branches of U.S. Government PlummetsPosted: June 30, 2014
Confidence hits six-year low for presidency; record lows for Supreme Court, Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For gallup.com, Justin McCarthy reports: Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30%) and Congress (7%), and a six-year low for the presidency (29%). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36%.
These data come from a June 5-8 Gallup poll asking Americans about their confidence in 16 U.S. institutions — within government, business, and society — that they either read about or interact with.
While Gallup recently reported a historically low rating of Congress, Americans have always had less confidence in Congress than in the other two branches of government. The Supreme Court and the presidency have alternated being the most trusted branch of government since 1991, the first year Gallup began asking regularly about all three branches.
But on a relative basis, Americans’ confidence in all three is eroding. Since June 2013, confidence has fallen seven points for the presidency, four points for the Supreme Court, and three points for Congress. Confidence in each of the three branches of government had already fallen from 2012 to 2013.
Confidence in the presidency is now the lowest it has been under President Barack Obama, as is confidence in Congress and the Supreme Court, given their historical lows. When Obama first took office in 2009, each of the three branches saw a jump in confidence from their dismally low ratings in George W. Bush’s final two years in the White House.
Confidence in the Presidency, From George H.W. Bush to Obama
The president in office is not mentioned by name when the presidential confidence question is asked, but how positively Americans evaluate the current president has a direct impact on how much confidence Americans place in the presidency as an institution.
Gallup began asking regularly about the presidency in March 1991, when George H.W. Bush was in office. At that time, 72% of Americans had confidence in the presidency — the highest confidence rating the institution has received. This was immediately following his leadership in the successful first Persian Gulf War, and at a time when his job approval rating hit the then all-time high of 89%. But the elder Bush also saw the largest drop in confidence for the institution that same year, when it fell to a still relatively high 50% in October 1991.
The three presidents who would succeed him would go on to be elected to two terms, with varying degrees of confidence in the executive branch of the U.S. government during those terms. Obama garnered the greatest first-year confidence rating, at 51% in 2009, but has held lower ratings than both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in each subsequent year of his presidency so far.
George W. Bush’s presidency commanded the highest first-term confidence ratings due to the post-9/11 surge in support for government leaders and institutions, marked by a record job approval rating of 90% for Bush in September 2001 and continued high ratings for him in the months thereafter. His second-term approval ratings plummeted, however, and so did confidence in the presidency, reaching anall-time low of 25% in 2007.
Clinton had higher approval ratings during his second term thanks to a strong economy, and confidence ratings for the presidency improved as well. Compared with the sixth-year low that the presidency has reached under Obama this year, confidence in the institution registered at 53% for Clinton in June 1998. Even in the thick of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that year, Americans’ confidence in the presidency remained higher than for either of his successors in their sixth years in office….(read more)
For more details on Gallup’s polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.
- Poll: Confidence in Supreme Court at record low (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- It’s Not Just Congress: Americans Also Losing Confidence in Presidency and Supreme Court (fdlaction.firedoglake.com)
- Gallup: Confidence in Government Lowest Since Polling Was Started (townhall.com)
- Trust in US government at record lows (therebel.org)
- Poll: Confidence in gov’t plummets (politico.com)
- Americans’ confidence in government down as 7 percent now have trust in Congress (kansas.com)
- Americans’ confidence in government down as 7 percent now have trust in Congress (thenewstribune.com)
- 4 Out of 5 Americans Have Lost Confidence in TV News (tomohalloran.com)