The Confidence Factor

13 03 2009

Public confidence is difficult to retain and maybe even harder to build upon, particularly after 8 years of President George W. Bush.

According to the findings of the General Social Survey, people have more confidence in the banking and financial institutions (19 percent) than they do in press (9 percent). I agree that the Enron and other accounting scandals have a lot to do with the public feeling sour about the banking and financial system, but so does the sense, whether warranted or not, that that sector widens inequality than it does energize the economy. This has as much to do with the credit card industry as it does with the growing sense that Wall Street is too opaque.

That said, people also seem to have more confidence in the banking system and major companies (16 percent ) than they do in organized labor (13 percent). I suppose that partially explains why people are so opposed to bailing out Detroit automakers.

They have more confidence in the Supreme Court (32 percent) that they do in the educational system (30 percent), organized religion (20 percent) or Congress or the Executive Branch (11 percent each).

I find that surprising considering the bitter Supreme Court fights over the nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Roberts in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In recent years, the Court also had a number of 5 to 4 rulings on a number of cases on issues where the public is still divided such as gun control, the death penalty, and gay marriage.

At least the scientific community manages to remain in relative good standing with 40 percent.

Only the U.S. military managed to break 50 percent in the survey. Predictably, the patriotic fervor that sprung from 9/11 has not dampened the sense of ambivalence or downright opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the prosecution of the war on terror.  But I am just guessing here.

Interestingly enough, the military and education were the only social institutions displayed below to gain any measure of confidence among the public from 2000 to 2008.

(H/T: FiveThirtyEight.com)

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