Two recent polls, the release of which includes an Independence Day celebration shattered by another mass shooting, show a United States in which confidence in major institutions has fallen to all-time lows.
Fewer citizens report that they are extremely proud of their country than at any time in the past 20 years.
Together, these two surveys – both done by the Gallup organization – paint a picture of a country that has apparently lost some of its confidence, not only in specific institutions, but in itself more broadly.
The first of the surveys, released last week, found that only 38% of respondents reported feeling “extremely proud” of being American. This is 5% lower than a year ago, and 20 percentage points lower than in 2009, when 58% described themselves as extremely proud. As recently as 2003, the percentage reached 70%.
However, an additional 27% of current respondents reported being “very proud” of their country, meaning that in total 65% of respondents had significantly positive feelings about being American. Yet the figure was significantly lower than previous measurements. In 2004, for example, the combined percentage of Americans who reported being “extremely” or “very” proud of their citizenship stood at 91%.
According to Gallup data, Republicans have consistently reported feelings of extreme pride in their country at higher prices than Democrats and independents. This has remained the case in this survey, with 58% of Republicans indicating extreme pride, 34% of independents and only 26% of Democrats.
Democrats in this year’s poll were above their lowest level, 22%, recorded in 2019. But Republicans and independents both reportedly proudly reported the lowest level in the 21 years Gallup had asked the question.
In general, men were more likely than women to report feeling extremely or very proud to be American, with a margin of 72% to 60%. The response was also significantly different across age groups. A full 80% of those 55 and older reported that they were either extremely proud or very proud. Among those between 35 and 54, the percentage was 64%. For those between 18 and 34, however, the total was only 48%.
Declining confidence in institutions
Gallup on Monday released its annual survey of Americans’ trust in society’s key institutions, including the federal government, the military, schools, businesses and other key sectors of society. The news was not encouraging.
The poll, according to Gallup, recorded “record low” confidence in society as a whole. Over the 16 categories surveyed, the survey showed sharp declines in 11, moderate declines in four more, and one unchanged. Confidence did not increase in any of them.
The sharpest decline was in people who expressed either “very” or “quite a lot” confidence in the presidency, which dropped from an already low 38% last year to just 23% this year. The 15% drop is in line with the decline found in other polls in President Joe Biden’s approval ratings over the same period.
Supreme Court trust
The second largest decrease was in confidence felt in the Supreme Court. Last year, 36% of respondents said they had either “a lot” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Supreme Court. This year, the figure dropped to 25%.
The poll was conducted before the Supreme Court issued a spate of controversial rulings, including the elimination of a constitutional right to abortion, the overthrow of a New York law restricting the ability of individuals to carry concealed firearms, and the Environmental Protection Agency to take certain measures to regulate greenhouse gases.
It is difficult to estimate how much those rulings would have affected the court’s ratings, because although they were rejected by many on the political left, they were also praised by many on the political right. A leaked draft of the Supreme Court abortion decision was released before the poll, which may have also affected the results.
Congress remains the institution least trusted by Americans, with those expressing high levels of confidence falling from 15% last year to single digits – just 7% in 2023.
The police (45%), the medical system (38%), organized religion (31%), banks (27%) and the criminal justice system (14%) all saw their ratings decline by 6% year-on-year. .
The survey also showed a decline in confidence in journalistic organizations. The percentage of respondents who report high levels of confidence in newspapers has dropped to 16% from 21% last year. Things were worse for television news, with high levels of confidence dropping to 11% from 16%.
The only institution that did not see a decline in public confidence was organized labor. But even there, the news was not exactly good, as the confidence level stood at just 28%.
John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-minded think tank, said in an email to VOA that the Gallup findings are representative of a long-term trend.
“This is not just a recent phenomenon,” he wrote. “Americans have come to the conclusion that many of the most important institutions in American society are either corrupt or rotten and have failed to address the country’s greatest challenges. “The 2008 financial crisis, the war in Iraq, economic and regional inequality, and the increase in extremist politics have all contributed to a greater sense of institutional decline.”
The “dilapidated state of our politics” is the biggest driver of negative feelings about the country, Halpin said.
“Americans have little to no faith that the two major political parties are capable of mediating some sort of consensus rate to get us back on track and correct a range of issues from inequality and poverty to immigration and crime,” he said. he said. “One party comes in and does some things that make their voters happy, but others leave steaming crazy. Then it changes for a while with the roles and emotions reversed. ”
Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-minded think tank, told VOA he believes much of the decline in citizens’ sentiment about the U.S. is due to a dominant cultural narrative that prevails in the country ‘s flaws focus.
In recent years he has said: “There has been a fairly strong drumming that the country is inherently oppressive, certainly based on race or gender or other superficial characteristics. So, I think that narrative takes its toll. ”
To counter the trend, he said: “Those of us who have a counter-opinion should have the courage to say these things out loud. That America’s institutions are important, still matter, and to a certain extent have the tools of self-improvement and self-renewal in them. “
He added, “Therefore, we could move from the Declaration of Independence in a time of slavery to the Constitution, to the amendments, the Bill of Rights. “All of these things have allowed the country to keep improving, and I think more of us need to stand up for that.”