More decline in institutional trust thanks to inequality
by David Atkins
We're fraying even further at the edges:
Americans' confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30%) and Congress (7%), and a six-year low for the presidency (29%). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36%.
These data come from a June 5-8 Gallup poll asking Americans about their confidence in 16 U.S. institutions -- within government, business, and society -- that they either read about or interact with.
While Gallup recently reported a historically low rating of Congress, Americans have always had less confidence in Congress than in the other two branches of government. The Supreme Court and the presidency have alternated being the most trusted branch of government since 1991, the first year Gallup began asking regularly about all three branches.
Confidence in government itself is shrinking rapidly, but it's also declining in most other sectors of society as well.
What Gallup doesn't mention is that this is directly related to rising inequality in society:
It is not an accident that trust in major institutions has declined on a linear track with rising inequality. Study after study has shown that trust in our fellow citizens and in institutions at large are dependent on the level of inequality and corruption in society. This stands to reason: people know when they're getting the short end of the stick, even if they can't agree on why. Conservatives wrongly blame government spending and regulation. Liberals rightly blame disproportionate rewards going to the very wealthy. Not surprisingly, then, high levels of inequality also create strong partisanship within society as politicians and pundits alike ratchet up the rhetoric of blame. As both secular and religious institutions seem equally powerless to address increasing economic and social insecurity, the social fabric begins to fray and people tend to self-segregate in many ways, including politically. Economic tension and social tension tend to go hand in hand.Conservative economics are quite literally tearing society apart.