BOSTON (CBS) – One of the topics pollsters occasionally take up that I find especially interesting is public confidence in institutions – government, business, courts, the press and so on. It’s a much more significant question than whether or not you support a particular politician. They come and go, but when we lose faith in the institutions that remain, it’s a giant warning sign that something’s rotten at the core of our democracy.
And that’s my takeaway from a new Georgetown University survey that found stark partisan differences in which institutions people have confidence in.
For instance, Republicans had high confidence in the executive branch because their guy is running it. Unsurprisingly, Democrats ranked it dead last among the 20 institutions they polled on. Bet you those numbers would be reversed if a Democrat was president.
Colleges and universities were the second-highest ranked institutions among Democrats. Republicans ranked them 15th out of 20. Again, no real surprise there.
Nor was it a surprise that there were sharp partisan splits over labor, big business, and of course the press. Each party has their favorite demons, and years of demonizing them have taken their toll. But there were some areas of bipartisan agreement.
Both sides have high confidence in the military and also share low confidence in Facebook.
And partisans on both sides hold Congress and the major political parties in contempt.
I’m reminded once again of L.A. beating victim Rodney King’s famous plea: “Can’t we all just get along?” The apparent answer, for now at least: no, we can’t.