15 September 2011

People Trust The Military More Than Politicians

The conventional wisdom (for good reason) in political science circles is that military regimes are bad and regimes run by elected civilian politicians are good. Yet, in the United States, widely viewed as one of the most mature, stable democracies in the world, the percentage of people who trust the military is 46 percentage points greater than the percentage who distrust the military, while the percentage who distrust Congress is 49 percentage points greater than the percentage who trust Congress.

Congress is trusted by 8% and distrusted by 57%, the military is trusted by 54% and distrusted by 8%. The percentage who trust and distrust the courts is about equal with state courts distrusted by a net two percentage points, while the Supreme Court is trusted by a net three percentage points. Net distrust of local government (14 percentage points) is less than net distrust of state government (20 percentage points) which in turn is less than net distrust of the federal government (37 points). Americans have equal net distrust of religious institutions and public schools (16 points). People say they distrust banks just as much as they distrust the federal government.

There are few social institutions other than the military and the Supreme Court that Americans have net trust for, they are (from most to least trusted, all between the Supreme Court and the military): Small and local companies, the scientific community, and charitable institutions.

The big changes since last year’s poll were a 16% increase in the spread for the military, a 12% increase in the spread (meaning greater confidence) for big business and the Supreme Court, a 9% increase in the spread for banks and charities, and a 7% decrease in the spread (meaning lesser confidence) for Congress.

At what point do people decide that they simply trust the military more than politicians and cede democracy? Or, is it actually the job that the various institutions do rather than who they are, that matters?

In the age of posse comitatus and no draft, the military is pretty harmless to the average person and doesn't make discretionary decisions that matter to us (it doesn't even decide whether or not to fight which wars for how long), even though it reports to the unpopular Congress and unpopular President that have the unpopular jobs of imposing and collecting taxes (respectively) to support it, and despite the fact that it is by far the largest part of the unpopular federal government (the Department of Defense and Veteran's Administration employ more civilians than the rest of the federal government put together in addition to the soldiers it employs). Congress, in contrast, has vast discretionary power, and hence is to be feared.

Maybe it is nuts, but shouldn't popularly elected political institutions be at least a little more popular in a democracy which is seemingly an institution that selected politicians on popularity more than any other?


Dave Barnes said...

Let's see what the trust levels are AFTER the military stages the coup d'etat that it has been planning since 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Battle of Chosin Reservoir, approximately 250 atomic tests on over 250,000 soldiers for radiation experimentation, U.S.S. Liberty. All the institutions you covered as trustworthy are actually not trustworthy at all and can kiss my royal rump and a trillion curses on them who never pay their debts.