Monday, June 15, 2009

Control Breeds Suspicion?

Here's some data from the General Social Survey about how much confidence Americans have in various institutions. These are the averages between 1972 and 2006:
InstitutionPercent With "A Great Deal" of Confidence
Organized labor12.50%
Executive branch17.20%
Major companies25.30%
Banks and financial institutions27.10%
Organized religion29.40%
Supreme Court33.00%
Scientific community43.10%
A few interesting things stand out in this survey, most of all the four government institutions: Congress, Executive branch, Supreme Court, and Military. It seems that the more direct control the public has over the institution, the less confidence they have in it. My initial guess is that more direct control means more attempts to grab the voters directly, meaning less believability of claims of neutrality. This would also explain why the press is ranked very low and the two highest are science and medicine--like the judges and soldiers, people see doctors and scientists as being coldly rational necessary for their job. Robin Hanson, though, would have a different opinion as to why people have so much confidence in medicine: we're afraid to be suspicious of them.

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