Virtually No Change in Annual Harris Poll Confidence Index from Last Year

But confidence in the White House drops 9 points

NEW YORK--()--For 44 years, since 1966, The Harris Poll has measured how confident the American people are in the leaders of major U.S. institutions. Based on the responses, Harris calculates an overall Confidence Index. Over the years it has gone up and down. In 2002, it touched 65. In 2008, it fell to 44. This year it stands at 53, one point lower than in early 2009.

However, this lack of movement in the Confidence Index is the result of a number of increases and decreases in confidence in the leaders of different institutions. The biggest change since early 2009 is the substantial drop in public confidence in the White House. Those with a “great deal of confidence” have fallen by 9 points from 36% to 27%.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,010 adults surveyed by telephone between February 16 and 21, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

There have also been declines in those with a great deal of confidence in colleges and universities (from 40% to 35%), organized religion (from 30% to 26%) and television news (from 22% to 17%).

On the other hand, there have been increases in those with a great deal of confidence in the courts and justice system (from 19% to 24%), major companies (from 11% to 15%), and Congress (from 4% to 8%). However, confidence in all of these is still very low.

Institutions at the top and bottom of the list

This year there are five institutions that have leaders who inspire a great deal of confidence in more than 30% of Americans:

  • The military (59%);
  • Small business (50%);
  • Major educational institutions, such as colleges and universities (35%);
  • Medicine (34%); and,
  • The U.S. Supreme Court (31%).

On the other side of the list, there are five institutions that have leaders who inspire a great deal of confidence in less than 15% of Americans:

  • Organized labor (14%);
  • The press (13%);
  • Law firms (13%);
  • Congress (8%); and,
  • Wall Street (8%).

In fact, almost half of Americans say they have hardly any confidence at all in the leaders of both Congress (48%) and Wall Street (45%).

Partisan Differences

There are also some large partisan differences. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say they have a great deal of confidence in:

  • The military (79% vs. 54%);
  • Small business (62% vs. 44%); and,
  • Organized religion (42% vs. 21%).

Democrats, on the other hand, are much more likely than Republicans to say they have a great deal of confidence in:

  • The White House (54% vs. 7%);
  • Organized labor (27% vs. 7%);
  • The press (22% vs. 8%), and
  • Congress (14% vs. 6%).

So what?

Each year the Harris Poll Confidence Index survey is conducted in late February/early March. Last year this was right after President Obama was sworn into office and there was a large sense of optimism in the country. This was clearly reflected by the 10 point rise in the Index from 2008 to 2009. This year, a bit of reality has set in and, thanks to the economy not turning around as quickly as most people hoped, a sense of pessimism is returning. Events this year will obviously influence what happens to the index in the twelve months. If the economy improves substantially, maybe it will go back up. If not, the question is not if it will drop, but rather, by how much.

 

TABLE 1
CURRENT CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2010)
“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       59   30   9   2
Small business       50   42   5   3

Major educational institutions,
such as colleges and universities

      35   49   13   3
Medicine       34   47   16   3
The U.S. Supreme Court       31   46   21   2
The White House       27   38   33   2
Organized religion       26   44   24   6
The courts and the justice system       24   54   19   3
Public schools       22   54   22   1
Television news       17   54   26   3
Major companies       15   56   27   3
Organized labor       14   49   31   6
The press       13   47   39   2
Law firms       13   54   28   6
Congress       8   41   48   2
Wall Street       8   43   45   4

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

 
 

TABLE 2A
CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2001-2010)
"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   2009   2010  

Change
2009-
2010

    %   %   %   %   %   %   %   %   %   %   %
The military     44   71   62   62   47   47   46   51   58   59   +1
Small business     X   X   X   X   47   45   54   47   48   50   +2

Major educational institutions
such as colleges and universities

    35   33   31   37   39   38   37   32   40   35   -5
Medicine     32   29   31   32   29   31   37   28   34   34   0
The U.S. Supreme Court     35   41   34   29   29   33   27   25   28   31   +3
The White House     21   50   40   31   31   25   22   15   36   27   -9
Organized religion     25   23   19   27   27   30   27   25   30   26   -4

The courts and the justice
system

    X   X   X   X   22   21   21   16   19   24   +5
Public schools     X   X   X   X   26   22   22   20   25   22   -3
Television news     24   24   21   17   16   19   20   16   22   17   -5
Major companies     20   16   13   12   17   13   16   14   11   15   +4
Organized labor     15   11   14   15   17   12   15   11   16   14   -2
The press     13   16   15   15   12   14   12   10   12   13   +1
Law firms     10   13   12   10   11   10   13   10   11   13   +2
Congress     18   22   20   13   16   10   10   8   9   8   -1
Wall Street     23   19   12   17   15   15   17   11   4   8   +4

The executive branch of the
federal government

    20   33   26   23   X   X   X   X   X   X   X

HARRIS INTERACTIVE
CONFIDENCE INDEX*

    55   65   57   55   53   52   53   44   54   53   -1

X = Not asked; * see methodology

 
 

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
Medicine     23   22   22   23   26   29   29   38   39   44
The U.S. Supreme Court     15   30   26   31   32   31   28   37   42   34
The White House     X   25   23   18   13   15   15   20   22   21
Organized religion     21   11   X   X   24   X   20   25   27   26

The courts and the justice
system

    X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X
Public schools     X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X
Television news     9   12   23   20   16   21   18   26   23   20
Major companies     20   10   16   19   21   21   18   21   23   28
Organized labor     21   11   X   X   8   X   9   13   15   15
The press     X   X   15   13   11   14   11   14   15   13
Law firms     X   13   11   8   9   11   7   11   10   12
Congress     9   16   12   8   10   10   11   12   12   15
Wall Street     14   13   13   15   13   17   17   18   30   30

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; * see methodology

 
 

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
Medicine     37   32   35   43   39   33   36   40   30   35
The U.S. Supreme Court     29   25   33   35   28   32   30   32   28   32
The White House     28   20   23   42   30   19   23   17   20   14
Organized religion     22   20   22   24   21   22   16   17   16   20

The courts and justice
system

    X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X
Public Schools     X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X
Television news     24   24   24   28   23   27   29   28   25   27
Major companies     16   18   18   19   17   16   21   19   16   9
Organized labor     12   8   10   12   13   11   11   13   10   18
The press     16   14   19   18   16   19   19   18   18   12
Law firms     X   X   12   17   12   14   15   13   X   X
Congress     16   13   20   28   16   21   20   15   16   14
Wall Street     X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   8   21

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; * see methodology

 
 

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
Medicine     73   61   48   57   50   43   42   43   42   30   34
The U.S. Supreme Court     50   23   28   33   40   28   22   29   29   28   27
The White House     X   X   X   18   28   X   11   31   14   15   18
Organized religion     41   27   30   36   32   32   24   29   24   20   22

The courts and justice
system

    X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X
Public schools     X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X
Television news     X   X   X   41   31   35   28   28   35   37   29
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
The press     29   18   18   30   25   26   20   18   23   28   19
Law firms     X   X   X   24   18   16   12   14   18   16   13
Congress     42   19   21   X   18   13   9   17   10   18   18
Wall Street     X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   X   12

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; * see methodology

 
 

TABLE 3
CONFIDENCE IN INSTITUTIONS; AVERAGE FOR INDEX IN EACH DECADE

      1960s     1970s     1980s     1990s     2000s     2010s
            1980   49 1990   50 2000   59 2010   53
      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     2009   54          

AVERAGE FOR
DECADE

    100     57     51     48     55     53

* 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   59   79   54   55
Small business   50   62   44   54

Major educational institutions, such as
colleges and universities

  35   37   42   32
Medicine   34   36   35   33
The U.S. Supreme Court   31   33   32   29
The White House   27   7   54   20
Organized religion   26   42   21   20
The courts and the justice system   24   19   29   28
Public schools   22   23   30   18
Television news   17   14   25   12
Major companies   15   17   15   14
Organized labor   14   7   27   11
The press   13   8   22   10
Law firms   13   13   16   10
Congress   8   6   14   4
Wall Street   8   5   12   5
 

Methodology

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between February 16 and 21, 2010 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.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

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Q601

The Harris Poll® #33, March 9, 2010
By Regina A. Corso, Director, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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Contacts

Press:
Harris Interactive
Alyssa Hall, 212-539-9600
ahall@harrisinteractive.com