Determinants of Confidence in U.S. Institutions: Comparing Congress and Corporations
Bolger, Daniel; Thomson, Robert Jr.; Ecklund, Elaine Howard
Objectives: The political discourse surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election highlighted discontent with both Congress and corporations, a reality corroborated in recent scholarship highlighting declines in institutional confidence among U.S. citizens. Here we test theories of institutional confidence to understand the social and cultural determinants of confidence in Congress and corporations prior to the start of the 2016 presidential campaigns. Methods: We draw on data from the Religious Understandings of Science Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted in 2013–2014 (N = 9,416). Results: We find that political ideology largely explained confidence in corporations while social location (particularly racial‐ethnic identity and gender) strongly related to confidence in Congress. Seemingly opposing factors converged to predict trust in both institutions. Conclusions: Institutional confidence is shaped not only by social and cultural factors but also by the symbolic functions of institutions themselves.