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Home arrow Market Research Findings arrow Economic Climate and Consumer Confidence arrow Big Drop in Confidence in Leaders of Major Institutions
Big Drop in Confidence in Leaders of Major Institutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harris Interactive   
29 Feb 2008
 The Harris Poll® #22, February 28, 2008

Leaders of the Military Only One of 16 Categories to Improve Since Last Year

Over the past four decades, the Harris Poll has measured the confidence, or lack of confidence, in the leaders of major institutions. This year’s survey finds that confidence has declined substantially since last year. Fifteen of the sixteen items listed show a fall in confidence and the overall Harris Interactive Confidence Index has fallen nine points this year.

The largest declines in those who have a "great deal of confidence" are for medicine (down from 37% to 28%), leadership in the White House (down from 22% last year to 15%) and for the relatively highly rated small business leaders (down from 54% to 47%).

Only one institution shows an improvement. Those who have a great deal of confidence in leaders of the military have increased from 46 percent to 51 percent. This almost certainly reflects a sense that the situation in Iraq is improving and the so-called "surge" has been somewhat successful. It may also reflect public confidence in General David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq.

These are the results of a Harris Poll of 1,010 adults surveyed by telephone between February 5 and 11, 2008.

As a result of the fall in confidence levels, the Harris Interactive Confidence Index had dropped very sharply from 53 in 2007 to 44 this year. This is the lowest it has been in eleven years.

This poll also shows significant declines in the number of people who have a great deal of confidence in:

    • Wall Street, down six points from 17 percent to only 11 percent (reflecting, presumably, the decline of the stock market);
    • Major Educational Institutions, down five points from 37 percent to 32 percent;
    • The Courts and the Justice Systems, also down five points from 21 percent to 16 percent.

 

 

Institutions at the Top of the List

In this year’s survey the leaders of six institutions enjoy the most confidence:

  • The military (51% have a great deal of confidence);
  • Small business (47%);
  • Major educational institutions (32%);
  • Medicine (28%);
  • Organized religion (25%);
  • The Supreme Court (25%).

 

 

 

Institutions at the Bottom of the List

Leaders of the following institution engender the lowest levels of confidence:

  • The Congress (only 8% have a great deal of confidence);
  • The press (10%);
  • Organized labor (11%);
  • Wall Street (11%);
  • Major companies (14%).

 

 

 

Republicans Have More Confidence in the Leaders of Some Institutions and Democrats Have More Confidence in Others

Republicans tend to have more confidence than Democrats in the leaders of:

    • The military (76% vs. 37%);
    • Small business (58% vs. 40%);
    • Medicine (38% vs. 24%);
    • The Supreme Court (37% vs. 20%);
    • Organized religion (35% vs. 21%);
    • The White House (30% vs. 7%);
    • Major companies (21% vs. 12%);
    • Wall Street (15% vs. 9%).

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats, on the other hand, tend to have more confidence in the leaders of:

    • Major educational institutions (39% vs. 25%);
    • Television news (22% vs. 13%);
    • Organized labor (17% vs. 6%);
    • The press (17% vs. 5%);
    • Congress (11% vs. 6%).

 

 

 

Why Confidence Levels Rise and Fall and Why Have They Fallen this Year?

The Harris Poll measures the changing levels of confidence from year to year but it does not explain why they change. We can provide plausible explanations for some, but not all of the changes.

We believe that al least two forces change these numbers. One is specific events (or public perception of events). These would explain the higher level of confidence in the military and the lower level of confidence in the White House (parallel to the recent decline in President Bush’s ratings).

Another explanation is the halo effect from general mood of the country that appears to raise or lower the levels of confidence in leaders generally when things seem to be going well, confidence rise – and vice versa.

However, sometimes confidence in specific institutions rises or falls for reasons we do not understand. In this year’s survey we do not offer an explanation for the sharp decline in confidence in the leaders of small business or medicine. It should be noted however that both of these still do much better than most of the institutions listed.

So What?

Public perceptions of different institutions and their leaders matter. They influence behavior. Legislators and regulators are probably more likely to take a tougher line with unpopular institutions than with popular ones. The influence of Corporate America is probably hurt by the low standing of major companies but helped by the high standing of small business. As confidence in Wall Street declines, legislators may be inclined to investigate or regulate financial markets. The unpopularity of organized labor may make it harder for unions to recruit new members. This year’s increased respect for our military leaders probably increases their influence on Capitol Hill. In a democracy, popularity and unpopularity often make a difference.

TABLE 1

CURRENT CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2008)

"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Base: All Adults

 

A Great Deal of Confidence

Only some Confidence

Hardly Any Confidence At All

Not Sure

Decline To Answer

%

%

%

%

%

The military

51

34

15

1

*

Small business

47

45

5

3

1

Major educational institutions, such as colleges and universities

32

49

15

4

*

Medicine

28

46

23

1

*

The U.S. Supreme Court

25

55

16

3

-

Organized religion

25

46

24

3

1

Public schools

20

54

25

1

*

The courts and the justice system

16

55

27

1

*

Television news

16

55

29

1

*

The White House

15

41

41

2

1

Major companies

14

53

29

2

1

Organized labor

11

53

29

6

1

Wall Street

11

52

27

9

1

The press

10

48

41

1

*

Law firms

10

52

33

4

1

Congress

8

50

39

2

1

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

* Less Than 0.5%

TABLE 2A

CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2001-2008)

"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults

 

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Change 2007-2008

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

44

71

62

62

47

47

46

51

+5

Small business

X

X

X

X

47

45

54

47

-7

Major educational institutions such as colleges and universities

35

33

31

37

39

38

37

32

-5

Medicine

32

29

31

32

29

31

37

28

-9

Organized religion

25

23

19

27

27

30

27

25

-2

The U.S. Supreme Court

35

41

34

29

29

33

27

25

-2

Public schools

X

X

X

X

26

22

22

20

-2

The courts and the justice system

X

X

X

X

22

21

21

16

-5

Television news

24

24

21

17

16

19

20

16

-4

The White House

21

50

40

31

31

25

22

15

-7

Major companies

20

16

13

12

17

13

16

14

-2

Wall Street

23

19

12

17

15

15

17

11

-6

Organized labor

15

11

14

15

17

12

15

11

-4

Law firms

10

13

12

10

11

10

13

10

-3

The press

13

16

15

15

12

14

12

10

-2

Congress

18

22

20

13

16

10

10

8

-2

The executive branch of the federal government

20

33

26

23

X

X

X

X

X

HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX

55

65

57

55

53

52

53

44

-9

X = Not asked

TABLE 2B

CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1991-2000)

"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults

 

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

X

50

57

39

43

47

37

44

54

48

Small business

47

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Major educational institutions such as colleges and universities

X

29

23

25

27

30

27

37

37

36

The U.S. Supreme Court

15

30

26

31

32

31

28

37

42

34

Medicine

23

22

22

23

26

29

29

38

39

44

Organized religion

21

11

X

X

24

X

20

25

27

26

The White House

X

25

23

18

13

15

15

20

22

21

Public schools

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The courts and the justice system

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Television news

9

12

23

20

16

21

18

26

23

20

Wall Street

14

13

13

15

13

17

17

18

30

30

The press

X

X

15

13

11

14

11

14

15

13

Major companies

20

10

16

19

21

21

18

21

23

28

Organized labor

21

11

X

X

8

X

9

13

15

15

Congress

9

16

12

8

10

10

11

12

12

15

Law firms

X

13

11

8

9

11

7

11

10

12

The executive branch of the federal government

X

X

15

12

9

12

12

17

17

18

HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX

45

45

47

43

43

47

42

54

60

59

X = Not asked

TABLE 2C

CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1981-1990)

"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults

 

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Small business

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The military

28

31

35

45

32

36

35

33

32

43

Major educational institutions such as colleges & universities

34

30

36

40

35

34

36

34

32

35

The White House

28

20

23

42

30

19

23

17

20

14

The U.S. Supreme Court

29

25

33

35

28

32

30

32

28

32

Medicine

37

32

35

43

39

33

36

40

30

35

Organized religion

22

20

22

24

21

22

16

17

16

20

Public Schools

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The courts and justice system

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Major companies

16

18

18

19

17

16

21

19

16

9

Organized labor

12

8

10

12

13

11

11

13

10

18

Congress

16

13

20

28

16

21

20

15

16

14

Television news

24

24

24

28

23

27

29

28

25

27

Wall Street

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

8

21

The press

16

14

19

18

16

19

19

18

18

12

Law firms

X

X

12

17

12

14

15

13

X

X

The executive branch of the federal government

24

X

X

X

19

18

19

16

17

14

HARRIS INTERACTIVE CONFIDENCE INDEX

51

46

53

63

51

51

53

50

46

50

X = Not asked

TABLE 2D

CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1966-1980)

"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults

 

1966

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The military

61

27

35

40

33

24

23

27

29

29

28

Small business

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Major educational institutions such as colleges & universities

61

37

33

44

40

36

31

37

41

33

36

The U.S. Supreme Court

50

23

28

33

40

28

22

29

29

28

27

Medicine

73

61

48

57

50

43

42

43

42

30

34

Organized religion

41

27

30

36

32

32

24

29

24

20

22

The White House

X

X

X

18

28

X

11

31

14

15

18

Public schools

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

The courts and justice system

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Television news

X

X

X

41

31

35

28

28

35

37

29

Wall Street

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

12

The press

29

18

18

30

25

26

20

18

23

28

19

Major companies

55

27

27

29

21

19

16

20

22

18

16

Organized labor

22

14

15

20

18

14

10

14

15

10

14

Congress

42

19

21

X

18

13

9

17

10

18

18

Law firms

X

X

X

24

18

16

12

14

18

16

13

The executive branch of the federal government

41

23

27

19

28

13

11

23

14

17

17

HARRIS INTERACTIVE

CONFIDENCE INDEX

100

58

59

69

64

55

44

55

55

50

49

X = Not asked

TABLE 3

CONFIDENCE IN INSTITUTIONS; AVERAGE FOR INDEX IN EACH DECADE

 

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

    

1980

49

1990

50

2000

59

  

1971

58

1981

51

1991

45

2001

55

  

1972

59

1982

46

1992

45

2002

65

  

1973

69

1983

53

1993

47

2003*

57

  

1974

64

1984

63

1994

43

2004

55

  

1975

55

1985

51

1995

43

2005

53

1966

100

1976

44

1986

51

1996

47

2006

52

  

1977

55

1987

53

1997

42

2007

53

  

1978

55

1988

50

1998

54

2008

44

  

1979

50

1989

46

1999

60

  

AVERAGE FOR DECADE

100

57

51

48

55

*Completed in December 2002

TABLE 4

CONFIDENCE LEVELS – BY PARTY

"As far as people in charge of running … are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"

Those saying "a great deal of confidence"

Base: All Adults

 

Total

Party ID

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

The military

51

76

37

45

Small business

47

58

40

43

Major educational institutions, such as colleges and universities

32

25

39

33

Medicine

28

38

24

23

The U.S. Supreme Court

25

37

20

24

Organized religion

25

35

21

19

Public schools

20

20

19

22

The courts and the justice system

16

17

18

12

Television news

16

13

22

10

The White House

15

30

7

9

Major companies

14

21

12

11

Organized labor

11

6

17

9

Wall Street

11

15

9

10

The press

10

5

17

7

Law firms

10

7

11

9

Congress

8

6

11

6

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Methodology

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between February 5 and 11, 2008 among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, size of place (urbanicity), and number of phone lines voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

The Harris Interactive Confidence in Leadership Index measures changes in the public’s confidence in various institutions. It is derived in the following manner:

  1. The index is based on the mean value of the items asked.
  2. All items have equal weight.
  3. The year 1966, the first year the items were asked, was set as a reference year for the index and assigned a score of 100.
  4. In order to yield a score of 100 in 1966, the mean value of the original 10 items was multiplied by a factor of 2.11. This same factor was then applied to the mean score in subsequent years, as long as the same items were asked.
  5. Whenever a new item is added, the multiplication factor is changed so that the new item has no effect on that year’s score. The new factor is derived by calculating the index with and without the new item(s), taking the ratio of the two scores, and multiplying this ratio by the old factor. (The current factor is 2.14).
  6. In years when an item included in a previous year is not asked, it is assumed for calculation purposes that no change has occurred in that item since the last time it was asked.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling are subject to ,multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 
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