In many respects Gallup’s poll is quite encouraging. The average American is a lot smarter than some of us think.
Gallup’s “Confidence in Institutions” poll is quite revealing, especially since it shows how people have changed their thinking over time. It goes back to 1973, and several items stick out.
First, trust in Congress. The question Gallup asked was “How much confidence [do] you, yourself, have in [the Congress] – a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?” 6% said “a great deal” while 7% said “quite a lot.” Back in 1973, 15% said “a great deal” while 27% said “quite a lot.” That’s a decline from 42% (both) to just 13% today. Here’s the kicker: In 1973 just 11% had “very little” trust in Congress while today that number is 47%!
I think that is a good thing. “Venal politicians” is a redundant phrase. This reflects in my opinion the low estate in which the government itself is held. As it continues to force its will onto the electorate, or ignore the electorate all together, Congress continues to lose the PR battle.
Here’s another one: public schools. Back in 1973 58% had either a great deal of confidence or quite a lot of confidence in public schools. Today, that number is half: 29%. I also think that’s a good thing, and bodes well for the continued growth in home schooling. The government schools are dedicated to the turning out of little communists, loving government, willing to be servants rather than sovereign individuals, having little understanding of freedom and very happy to give up control of their lives to the overweening state. That’s why I was happy, for a brief period in the 70s, to serve on the board of the Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs. My children all attended summer camp there, and they turned out well. My son and his wife home school their five children, and they are turning out well. They’re learning how to think, to be independent, to act as responsible citizens. They don’t have TV and they aren’t addicted, so far as I can tell, to video games or other such online nonsense.
I’ll leave you a final one. I’ve saved the best for last: television news. Gallup starting asking about confidence in television news in 1993, so the decline is even more precipitous: back then, the “great deal/quite a lot” category was 46%. Today it is 21%. I like to think that the internet has had a lot to do with this. The internet is the Gutenberg Press of the 21st Century. It is increasingly busy exposing various “memes” that used to be effectively promoted by the media. But major exposures of falsehoods over time have diminished the respect of people in the media. I think of Watergate, and Monica Lewinsky, and Global Warming, and so on.
In all, I think Gallup’s poll is showing improvement in several areas. It’s a little early for rejoicing, but far too soon to be discouraged.
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