Americans' Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record

Americans' confidence in Congress as an institution is down to 10%. The is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution. Joining Congress at the bottom of the list are Health Maintenance Organizations and organized labor.

by Elizabeth Mendes and Joy Wilke
June 13, 2013
Gallup

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' confidence in Congress as an institution is down to 10%, ranking the legislative body last on a list of 16 societal institutions for the fourth straight year. This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record. Americans remain most confident in the military, at 76%.

gallup

Small business and the police also continue to rank highly, with 65% and 57% of Americans, respectively, expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in these institutions. Joining Congress at the bottom of the list are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and organized labor. Congress' low position is further underscored when one looks at the percentage of Americans who have little or no confidence in each institution. The slight majority of Americans, 52%, have this level of confidence in Congress, compared with 31% for HMOs.

Americans' confidence in several institutions measured in the June 1-4 Gallup poll has shifted since last year. Americans have become more confident in banks, organized religion, and public schools, and less confident in the U.S. medical system, the Supreme Court, and Congress.

Confidence in Congress Falls to Record Low

The percentage of Americans expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress is the lowest for a trend that dates back to 1973. The high point for Congress, 42%, came in that year.

Confidence in Congress has been at its lowest points for several years, while it was higher in the mid-1980s and in the early 2000s.

congress confidence

In Contrast to Past, Republicans, Democrats Hold Congress in Equally Low Regard

Democrats, independents, and Republicans are about equally likely to express low confidence in Congress. This is a change from the past and likely reflects the split control of Congress.

Historically, members of each major party expressed greater confidence in Congress when their party held control of both houses. During most years of the Republican-controlled House and Senate in the early to mid-2000s, Republicans were at least slightly more likely than Democrats to express confidence in Congress. After the Democratic Party took over both houses in 2007, however, Democrats began reporting more confidence than Republicans in the institution.

Between 2009 and 2012, a period that saw Congress come under split control, these partisan differences gradually diminished, and this year, Democrats are a mere two percentage points more likely than Republicans to report having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.

congress confidence

Bottom Line

Americans' confidence in Congress is not only at its lowest point on record, but also is the worst Gallup has ever found for any institution it has measured since 1973. This low level of confidence is in line with Americans' low job approval of Congress, which has also been stuck below 30% for years.

The divided Congress, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans the House, is likely part of the reason for the low levels of confidence rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans express, and is tied to Americans' frustrations with Congress' inability to get much done.

Gallup will explore the long-term trends in Americans' confidence in other key institutions in future stories.

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