According to a recent Gallup Poll, Members of Congress have now slipped below car salesmen in terms of the public's trust in them; only lobbyists are lower. State elected officials are only slightly higher than MCs. And judges come in at a lowly 46 percent.
What is also interesting to note is that members of the clergy have dropped from a high in the mid-1980s of 67 percent to 47 percent in the latest snapshot.
Polls are snapshots, not forecasts. But does this particular snapshot tell us anything larger about what's going on right now? No doubt, the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandals have helped cause some of the drop in the trust in our religious leaders. There is also the fact that the "nones" -- those with no religious affiliation -- have grown; why trust a religious leader if you're not religious? And political scientist Eric Voeten adds this:
[T]he authority of clergy is intrinsically linked to how much we trust them. This is especially problematic for religions like Catholicism that rely strongly on the authoritativeness of clergy. That is why clergy in these religions invest so heavily in symbols that are difficult to imitate, such as celibacy. Celibacy tends to deter imposters. It is also why the Catholic Church is rightly worried about the consequences of declining trust.
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More troubling, perhaps, is that we have little faith in those people who run the institutions who control our government. Start with the fact that only 54 percent of us trust police officers -- and anyone who tells you that cops do not deal in falsehoods is stunningly gullible -- and only 46 percent of us trust the judges that rule on the laws that the state legislatures and Congress pass (14 and 8 percent, respectively).
In short, there is, at the moment, an almost complete failure of the governing elites and those who are on the front lines of the criminal justice system to inspire widespread confidence. Liberals will want to yell "Tea Party" and conservatives might yell "Pelosi and Reid," and minorities will be able to tell you about their experiences with the criminal justice system. And many of us can shake our heads at the state of our elected judiciary.
Whatever else, this snapshot shows one of a populace deeply disillusioned with the powers that be. Chicken littles let's not be, but perhaps be a bit unsettled. The sky ain't falling, it's, to mix metaphors, getting darker.