America’s trust in its institutions has collapsed

The Economist:

As far as stereotypes go, brash national self-confidence has long been a defining feature of how Americans are viewed abroad. In 2006, when Gallup first started asking Americans about their trust in key institutions, the country ranked at the top of the g7 league table, tied with Britain. In 2023, for the first time, America came last.

New data from Gallup, a pollster, show that American trust in several national institutions is on the decline. That may not be surprising, given the fraught state of the country’s politics, but the cumulative fall over the years is startling (see chart). Twenty years ago Americans had the highest confidence in their national government of people in any g7 country. Today they have the lowest. Americans are tied with Italians in having the lowest trust in their judicial system, and come last in faith in honest elections. Even the army is suffering from a dip. Although still high at 81%, American trust in its armed forces is now lower than at any point since 2006, and—gasp—lower than in France.

The reasons behind this crisis of confidence in the self-declared greatest country on Earth are varied. The roots of a (healthy) scepticism of government can be traced back to the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. The gradual dying-out of the second world war generation, which had significantly higher institutional trust than later generations, also plays a role. However, more recent developments help explain the sharp decline of the past years.