The Confidence of Americans in Institutions

The Confidence of Americans in Institutions

The Confidence of Americans in Institutions

In early July, the Gallup Poll carried out an annual survey in which people are asked about their confidence in various institutions.

Here are some of the results, as reported at the Gallup website by Jeffrey M. Jones, “In U.S., Black Confidence in Police Recovers From 2020 Low” (July 14, 2021) and by Megan Brenan, “Americans’ Confidence in Major U.S. Institutions Dips” (July 14, 2021).

This figure shows the share of people who express “A great deal/Quite a lot of confidence” in each of these institutions. The overall percentage of approval is on the far right, and the breakdown by white, black, and Hispanic is shown by the dots.


For me, figures like this lead to lots of inner conversations, and I will spare you most of that. But since I’ve been reading a fair amount about policing lately, here are a few thoughts:

  1. It was interesting to me that while whites were the group expressing the most confidence for the top few items on the list, Hispanics were expressing the most confidence for many of the items lower on the list. The one institution in which blacks expressed the greatest confidence was “Television News.”
  2. The extremely low levels of confidence expressed for Congress, the media, big business and big labor, and other areas is worth some reflection
  3. The biggest gap between the confidence of whites and blacks appears for the police.
  4. The survey asks separately about “The Police” and “The criminal justice system.” The confidence level in the police is far higher for every group than the confidence in the rest of the criminal justice system.
  5. Despite a year of intense controversy over the police, they still rank well above many of these other categories in terms of public confidence.
  6. A separate figure shows the confidence in police for blacks and whites over time. It’s interesting to note that the confidence of blacks in this area was already declining in the 214-2019 time frame, and that after a very sharp decline in 2020, there has been something of a bounceback in 2021.


Here’s one more figure, this one showing a breakdown of the same categories by political party.


Republicans are vastly more confident in the police, organized religion, the military, and small business. Democrats are vastly more confident in the presidency, newspapers and television news, public schools, and organized labor. The lack of approval for Congress, the criminal justice system, banks, and big business is largely bipartisan. 

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Timothy Taylor

Global Economy Expert

Timothy Taylor is an American economist. He is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association. Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College and a master's degree in economics from Stanford University. At Stanford, he was winner of the award for excellent teaching in a large class (more than 30 students) given by the Associated Students of Stanford University. At Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Taylor has been a guest speaker for groups of teachers of high school economics, visiting diplomats from eastern Europe, talk-radio shows, and community groups. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News. He has published multiple lectures on economics through The Teaching Company. With Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill, he is co-author of Updating America's Social Contract (2000), whose first chapter provided an early radical centrist perspective, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle". Taylor is also the author of The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published by the Penguin Group in 2012. The fourth edition of Taylor's Principles of Economics textbook was published by Textbook Media in 2017.

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