Trust In Congress Hits All-Time Low, Both Parties Despised
Public trust in Congress is at an all time low, again, and the public doesn't trust either party to fix things.
A new Gallup poll shows that public confidence in the Legislative Branch has hit it’s lowest level since the 1970s:
A record-low 36% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the legislative branch of government, down sharply from the prior record low of 45% set last year. Trust in the judicial branch and trust in the executive branch also suffered sharp declines this year but remain higher than trust in the legislative branch.
Here’s the chart that tells the story, not just for Congress but for all three branches of government:
As you can tell from the chart, with the exception of understandable post-Watergate distrust of the Executive, trust in all three branches of government seems to have started declining at some point in the 1990s:
Trust in the legislative branch was highest, at 71%, in May 1972, and remained generally high from that point to the mid-2000s. It then dropped to 50% in 2007, 47% in 2008, and 45% in 2009, all record lows at the time they were measured. This year’s 36% legislative confidence rating marks still another record low, and is the lowest trust level in any of the three branches of government in Gallup’s history.
Trust in the executive branch has shifted up and down with some frequency over the last four decades, generally in sync with movement in presidential job approval ratings. Gallup measured the lowest level of trust in the executive branch, 40%, in April 1974, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, which later that year resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation. Trust was nearly as low in the waning years of the George W. Bush administration. Last year, the first year of the Barack Obama administration, trust in the executive branch shot up to 61%, but it has fallen back again this year, coinciding with the fall in Obama’s job approval ratings to below 50%.
Trust in the judicial branch of government is at 66%, down from last year but roughly in line with readings since 2003. Gallup recorded the highest judicial branch trust reading, 80%, in February 1999, at about the time the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice William Rehnquist was presiding in the U.S. Senate over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
The fact that the Judiciary is still held in relatively high esteem compared to the other branches of government is largely due to the fact that it is branch of government that is the most insulated from the public, as a I noted back in June when discussing the public’s knowledge about the Supreme Court:
Outside of confirmation hearings, Supreme Court Justices do their work outside the view of the public and even when a controversial or highly publicized decision is issued, it comes from a collective body and is communicated by reporters rather than the Justices themselves. Unlike, say, people who don’t have enough awareness of politics to identity their Federal or state representatives, the fact that large numbers of Americans don’t know who Stephen Breyer or Anthony Kennedy might be is neither surprising or concerning. One imagines that these numbers would change, though, if the Court ever did accept the long-discussed idea of cameras in the courtroom.
In this case, public ignorance inures to the judiciaries benefit.
Getting back to Congress, though, the general disdain for Congress isn’t necessarily good news for Republicans:
In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 60 percent disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing — yet 68 percent frown on how Republicans are performing. While 59 percent are unhappy with how Democrats are handling the economy, 64 percent are upset by the GOP’s work on the country’s top issue. Just over half have unfavorable views of each party.
So, despite the fact that polls continue to indicate that Republicans will make gains in November, perhaps even huge gains, the reality of the situation is that we’re living in a country where the general public has no confidence in the body that was established by the Founders to represent them, and don’t trust either party to fix it.
That’s a recipe for…………something. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I don’t think it’s healthy.