My post on confidence in institutions used data from the Gallup Polls. The General Social Survey also has some questions about confidence in institutions, which are introduced by: "I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?" One of the institutions is the military. I compared changes the GSS and Gallup questions; since the response scales are different, I standardized both:
What makes the comparison particularly interesting is the first two points labelled "GSS"--they aren't actually from the GSS, but from the Harris Poll, which introduced the question in 1966 and asked it again in 1971, before Gallup started their question. There was a large drop in confidence in that five year period--after forty years of increase, we are not yet back to the 1966 level. Vietnam is the obvious explanation for the drop, but Harris asked about a number of other institutions, and most of them also saw large declines in confidence. Unfortunately the data from 1966 and 1971 do not seem to have survived, but I was able to find data from Harris Polls in 1967 and 1972 which included the confidence questions, and I will write about them in a future post. Since the semester is finally over, the "future" might even be the near future.
Note: the figures for the Harris data were obtained from Lipset and Schneider, The Confidence Gap, and an article by Everett Ladd in the 1976-7 issue of Public Opinion Quarterly.