Americans Have Little Faith in Congress, Tech Leaders, Think They Rarely Face Consequences

U.S. Congress
The rising sun illuminates the United States Capitol Building on September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. According to a new survey, Americans have little faith in Congress or their local officials. Samuel Corum/Getty

A substantial majority of Americans do not trust elected officials—including representatives in Congress—nor do they believe that those in elected office are held accountable for unethical actions, a new report from the Pew Research Center has found.

According to the wide-ranging study, members of Congress, local elected officials and leaders of tech companies rank the lowest on various metrics related to good governance, including whether they are seen as caring about the public, providing accurate information or handling resources responsibly.

"People invest their trust in institutions and those who have power for a variety of reasons," the report explains. "Researchers have found that people's confidence in others and organizations can include their judgments about the competence, honesty and benevolence of the organizations or individuals they are assessing, as well as factors such as empathy, openness, integrity and accountability. These perceptions can be seen as building blocks of trust."

These building blocks of trust are evidently absent from some of the most prominent institutions in American society. Eighty-one percent of adults believe that members of Congress act unethically at least some of the time, the lowest-ranked rating for any institution measured. Congress similarly scored the worst on the question of accountability. Seventy-one percent of the public thinks that federal lawmakers rarely face consequences for unethical actions.

Tech leaders also received low marks from the American public, a notable fall from their once-revered position in American political circles. Now, for various reasons, grassroots supporters of both parties have come to resent big tech companies, and the bipartisan rancor is evident in the new polling. Fifty-eight percent of adults think tech leaders rarely face consequences for unethical actions. Tech leaders also scored the worst on the question of whether they are perceived as caring about the average person.

The results of the survey broke down along gender lines, especially on political questions. Women largely provide majority support for congressional lawmakers, reporting faith in their empathy and use of public resources. Only minorities of men, on the other hand, responded to these questions indicating the same level of faith in members of Congress.

Republicans and Democrats differ dramatically on many of the institutions they believe are liable to act unethically. Republicans are much more likely to indicate that journalists and public school principals don't act within ethical constraints. Democrats meanwhile are more likely to say that high-ranking military officials, police officers and religious leaders don't act ethically.

There is bipartisan consensus on the purported unethical behavior of lawmakers and tech leaders, however. Both Democrats and Republicans largely agree, with overwhelming majorities, that local officials, members of Congress and tech leaders act unethically at least some of the time.

Americans Have Little Faith in Congress, Tech Leaders, Think They Rarely Face Consequences | U.S.
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