What does it say about us Americans when the only institution with “a notable gain in public confidence” is the U.S. military — not churches, not labor unions, not even the U.S. Supreme Court?

The Pew Research Center notes, ”Public confidence in the military surpassed confidence in religious organizations in the late 1980s and has stayed there ever since.” Of the 16 institutions listed in a 2011 Gallup survey, only three have a confidence rating above 50 percent. Here’s the complete list of the percentage of Americans who say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in them:

  • 78% - Military
  • 64% - Small business
  • 56% - Police
  • 48% - Church or organized religion
  • 39% - Medical system
  • 37% - U.S. Supreme Court
  • 35% - Presidency
  • 34% - Public schools
  • 28% - Criminal justice system
  • 28% - Newspapers
  • 27% - Television news
  • 23% - Banks
  • 21% - Organized labor
  • 19% - Big business
  • 19% - Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs)
  • 12% - Congress

Share Your Reflection



The gain of confidence in the military parallels an increase in our fear and is inversely proportional to the loss of confidence in the church, the traditional protector against what we are most afraid, meaninglessness. The military gains while the church loses because we have replaced our fear of "the void" with a fear of terrorists and the military creates the perception it is protecting us against the 'enemy' we fear. http://www.thelastwhy.ca/poem/

Ironic that Jesus repeatedly tell us 'Do not be afraid'. 

RE: Military vs. Church
When I looked back at the line graph, I noticed that the military surpassed the church in confidence somewhere around 1990. The Berlin Wall had fallen so we weren't afraid of the Soviets any more. It was well before the rise of bin Laden, so we weren't afraid of terrorism any more. Obviously something else was going on.