Record-Low Confidence in U.S. Institutions

by Ethan Roberts
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Record-Low Confidence in U.S. Institutions: FBI, Supreme Court, and Congress Plummet in Trust

Trust in key U.S. institutions such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Supreme Court, and Congress have reached record lows, according to a recent poll conducted by Journal Press. The survey also revealed a decline in overall confidence in the federal government, with less than a third of registered voters expressing trust, marking a 20-year low.

Record-Low Confidence in U.S. Institutions

Record-Low Confidence in U.S. Institutions

Loss of Faith in Traditional Institutions

The decline in confidence in these institutions is a significant departure from previous years. Six years ago, a majority of Americans had faith in the FBI (80%) and the Supreme Court (83%), while over half trusted Congress (53%). However, these numbers have sharply declined, with the FBI now gaining the trust of only 59% of the public, the Supreme Court at a mere 48%, and Congress dropping to 34%.

Party Divisions in Trust

The decline in trust is not uniform across political party lines. The drop in confidence in the FBI can be attributed to Republicans, who have lost faith by 48 points since 2017, and independents, who have seen an 18-point decline. Surprisingly, Democrats have experienced a slight increase of 3 points in confidence.

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Congress, similarly affected by this loss in trust, has witnessed a drop of 32 points among Republicans and 28 points among independents, whereas Democrats have only seen a 3-point decline. This trend indicates a growing polarization among voters when it comes to their trust in institutions.

Supreme Court Takes a Hit

The Supreme Court has suffered the most significant blow in trust, dropping below 50% for the first time since the question was first asked in 2014. Back then, 69% of Americans expressed confidence in the highest court in the land. The erosion of trust is evident across the political spectrum, with Democrats experiencing a decline of 48 points, Republicans facing a 21 point-drop, and independents down by 37 points since 2017.

Importance of Non-Political Arbiter

Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Journal Press Poll with Republican Daron Shaw, emphasizes the striking decline in confidence in major institutions. “With less than half of Americans confident in the court, and Democrats half as likely as Republicans to feel so, there is a clear perception the country lacks a non-political arbitrator of the laws of the land,” says Anderson.

Department of Justice Split Opinions

For the first time, the poll asked about confidence in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and found views to be evenly divided, with 51% expressing confidence and 49% lacking trust. The breakdown is notable, with most Democrats (73%) expressing confidence in the DOJ, while majorities of Republicans (67%) and independents (60%) remain skeptical.

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Mixed Opinions on Trump and Biden

The poll also explored public opinion regarding the handling of classified materials by former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. When asked whether they believed Trump put national security at risk with his handling of classified documents after his presidency, 54% of voters answered affirmatively, while 42% disagreed.

Regarding President Biden, 37% believe he did something illegal with classified documents, 41% consider his actions careless but not illegal, and 19% believe he did nothing wrong. These numbers have remained relatively steady since January, but more voters now perceive Trump to have done something illegal, an increase of 6 points among Democrats and 8 points among independents.

Hunter Biden’s Plea Deal

Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, recently accepted a plea deal on tax and gun charges. The survey found that voters are almost eight times more likely to believe the DOJ’s treatment of the president’s son was not tough enough (55%) compared to those who think it was too tough (7%). A third of voters believe Hunter Biden was treated fairly (34%).

Similarly, opinions on the Justice Department’s treatment of Trump are divided, with 36% believing it was not tough enough, 38% considering it too tough, and 23% believing it was fair. Voters’ suspicion extends to both sides of the political spectrum, with 55% feeling that the DOJ’s actions are motivated by partisan politics.

Record-High Distrust in Federal Government

The Journal Press Poll reveals a record-high level of distrust in the federal government, with 66% of voters expressing a lack of trust, compared to 60% in May 2021. This marks a significant increase since the question was first asked in June 2002 when only 36% of Americans distrusted the federal government.

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The increasing distrust is most pronounced among Republicans (86%) and independents (75%), while just over half of Democrats (54%) still express trust. The data indicates that distrust has risen by 2 percentage points among Democrats, 38 points among independents, and a staggering 57 points among Republicans since 2002.

Conclusion

The latest Journal Press Poll shines a spotlight on the declining confidence in several key U.S. institutions. With trust in the FBI, Supreme Court, and Congress reaching record lows, and decreasing faith in the Department of Justice, the findings paint a picture of growing polarization and disillusionment among Americans. The erosion of trust in these institutions compounds concerns about the lack of a non-political arbitrator and highlights the need for rebuilding public faith in the foundational pillars of democracy.

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