Americans trust police more than Congress, study finds

The most trusted leader of them all? The public school principal, according to a Pew Research Center study on Americans’ faith in powerful people and institutions.

Despite a vast number of incidences of police brutality and misconduct in recent years, a study finds that the police were the next most trusted category of people with power after principals and military leaders.CreditCreditAndrew Burton/Getty Images

Researchers also found that the majority of Americans think that most people in positions of power behave unethically at least occasionally.

The New York Times reports The study adds to an already robust body of research on the decline in trust in American institutions. A Pew study published in April found that trust in government was at or near historically low levels. Previous research has also shown a decline in the public’s trust of the news media.

Survey participants were asked about two of eight categories of people: members of Congress, military leaders, journalists, leaders of technology companies, religious leaders, police officers, local elected officials and public school principals.

Principals were the most trusted by participants on several measures: 84 percent thought they cared about their students some or most of the time. Respondents also viewed principals as less likely to display unethical behavior than virtually any other group. Only military leaders were considered comparably as ethical.

Despite a vast number of incidences of police brutality and misconduct in recent years, the police closely followed principals in several trust categories. Seventy-nine percent of participants believed that police officers care about them all or most of the time, and nearly as many think that they provide fair and accurate information.

The responses differed among racial and ethnic groups, however. Whereas more than 70 percent of white Americans said police officers treated racial and ethnic groups equally at least some of the time, just half of Hispanic Americans and only a third of black Americans said the same.

The trust divide between Congress and local elected officials was stark among Republicans and Democrats alike. Two-thirds of Americans said local elected officials cared about their constituents at least some of the time, compared with just half who said the same about members of Congress. Local elected officials were less trusted by black Americans to do their job well than white Americans, however.

Trust in journalists varied depending on the question and the respondent’s political affiliation. Roughly half of Americans said journalists care about people like them, whereas nearly as many — 46 percent — said journalists rarely care. Republicans’ belief that journalists would fairly cover all sides of an issue (31 percent) was dramatically lower than Democrats’ (74 percent). Two-thirds of Americans think that journalists behave unethically some or most of the time.

Information from The New York Times

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September 2019