What do Americans trust more: church or small business?

A new Gallup poll asked 1,000 Americans about their confidence in various institutions. The US military ranked first; Congress was last. Here are the other rankings.

Andy Nelson / The Christian Science Monitor / File
Downtown Dyersville, Iowa, retains its charm but struggles to remain viable with businesses working to keep local customers in this 1998 file photo. In a new Gallup poll in June 2011, Americans said they had more confidence in the military than in any other US institution.

Americans have more confidence in the military and in small businesses than in any other national institutions, according to a new survey.

The survey conducted by Gallup found that Americans’ confidence levels in those institutions surpassed even their confidence in the medical system, police forces and the nation’s public schools.

Seventy-eight percent of Americans surveyed said they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the military, with 64 percent saying the same thing about small businesses.

Congress ranked last, behind big business and health maintenance organizations.

Of the institutions examined, law enforcement was the only other one that saw high confidence levels from more than 50 percent of those surveyed.

Other institutions and their confidence rankings included:

  • Church or organized religion: 48 percent
  • Medical system: 39 percent
  • U.S. Supreme Court: 37 percent
  • Presidency: 35 percent
  • Public schools: 34 percent
  • Criminal justice system: 28 percent
  • Newspapers: 28 percent
  • Television news: 27 percent
  • Banks: 23 percent
  • Organized labor: 21 percent
  • Big business: 19 percent
  • Health maintenance organizations: 19 percent
  • Congress: 12 percent
  • Gallup has asked Americans how much confidence they have in a variety of institutions 35 times since 1973, with annual updates since 1993.

    Overall, confidence in most of the institutions this year is below the historical average for each. Americans’ overall dissatisfaction with the country, including the state of the economy, is to blame, according to Gallup. This year's ratings of banks, Congress and the presidency are the ones falling the most below their historical average.

    The most notable exception is for the military, which this year is 11 points higher than its historical average.

    Previous Gallup surveys found that Americans tend to express much higher levels of confidence in the military during active military operations such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1991, just after the Persian Gulf War ended, Americans reported a confidence level of 85 percent.

    The small business confidence levels are also slightly above their 62 percent historical levels.

    Results for this Gallup poll were based on telephone interviews conducted this month, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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