US confidence at record low, says Gallup

According to Gallup’s most recent confidence polls, Americans are not impressed with the way things are going. Public schools, organized religion and TV news are just a few of the institutions, both public and private, that fell to new lows based on Gallup’s data dating back to 1973.

Learning that confidence is low doesn’t register as news, however these levels are noteworthy. In fact, the report cites that more than half of institutions measured by Gallup have hit bottom at some point in the last five years.  Also interesting is the broad mix of public and private institutions that received low levels of approval.

Bank confidence falls

Banks in particular hit new lows in this report with only 21% of Americans expressing high levels of confidence which Gallup says is half of the 42% average for banks since the company began tracking this metric in 1979.

Congress fared worse. Only 13% of Americans expressed high levels of confidence in Congress in the same report. That number is down from December of last year when Gallup recorded record high anti-incumbent sentiment with 76% of Americans saying members of Congress did not deserve re-election.  In 2010, only 11% of Americans expressed confidence in Congress, “the lowest Gallup has ever measured for any institution.”

Root causes are widespread

Seeking causes is not always part of Gallup’s polling procedures. In this case, the company’s assessment points to the broader environment. “Thus, the declining confidence seems to be part of a broader pattern, rather than a product of isolated issues facing individual institutions.”

However, the company’s website provides a link to the chairman’s blog which offers more conclusive opinions.  Jim Clifton, Gallup Chairman and CEO references widespread lack of leadership here in the US and around the world as chief among the causes of widespread negative sentiment.

More interesting perhaps are the implications of extreme levels of low confidence on business. It’s certainly more difficult to convince consumers to trust an insurance or investment company in such an environment.  Even public schools need to recognize the challenges that surround them and to increase the frequency and depth of communication with stakeholders.

As always, it’s important to know the environment you work in, to understand and anticipate stakeholder expectations, and to respond accordingly.

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