Americans Have Little Confidence In Political Institutions, Poll Finds A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that Congress, the political parties and the media rank among the least-trusted U.S. institutions in the age of President Trump.
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Here's Just How Little Confidence Americans Have In Political Institutions

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Here's Just How Little Confidence Americans Have In Political Institutions

Here's Just How Little Confidence Americans Have In Political Institutions

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The investigation that's being led by special counsel Robert Mueller has been under a lot of partisan scrutiny, and fewer than half of Americans think it's being conducted fairly. That is according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. We also found a lot of doubt about government and private institutions. NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is with us now to talk through the findings. Hello.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So just shy of a majority of people think Mueller's investigation is fair. What else did this poll find about how the public views the Russia investigation?

MONTANARO: Well, Americans really are divided on the investigation, you know, especially by party. And we see that throughout almost everything that we survey on. But almost three quarters of Democrats think it's been fair. But a majority of Republicans - guess what - do not.

MCEVERS: Right.

MONTANARO: Overall, 68 percent say Mueller should be allowed, though, to finish the investigation. But personally, he's pretty vulnerable. More than 4 in 10 don't know who he is, or they have no opinion of him. And of those who do, they're pretty split. Just 29 percent have a favorable impression of Mueller. An equal 29 percent have an unfavorable impression of him - and again, pretty hotly partisan.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

MONTANARO: So what's all this mean - that the conservative campaign against Mueller that's been waged in conservative media has been working. Our pollster said if he were a candidate, now would be the time to start putting up those ads to define himself because right now, he's only being defined by his opponents. He of course, though - he's notably not a candidate. He's kind of the opposite of somebody who would go on a campaign for himself - very private guy and conducting this investigation behind the scenes. And there's also a campaign against the integrity of the FBI, including from the president. But our poll shows that 57 percent actually have quite a bit of confidence or a great deal of confidence in that law enforcement agency.

MCEVERS: This poll asked more broadly about institutions beyond the FBI, meaning other parts of government - schools, banks, the military. You wrote today on npr.org that trust is crumbling in our institutions. I mean, how bad is it?

MONTANARO: Well, it's really not great at all for especially American political institutions.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

MONTANARO: Just 8 percent have a great deal of confidence in Congress. Overwhelming numbers of people have little confidence in both major political parties. A solid majority have not much or no confidence in the presidency, and that's something that has happened, you know, back to Barack Obama where the presidency has become pretty polarized. The only institution that holds up very well at all is the military - whopping 87 percent of Americans have at least quite a lot of confidence in the military. And that's a huge change from a generation ago in the '70s. After and during the Vietnam War, far fewer people had that kind of confidence in the military - lot's changed in 40 years - no longer have the draft. Fewer and fewer Americans know someone who's served.

MCEVERS: 2018 of course is an election year. What should politicians be mindful of in these findings?

MONTANARO: People are skeptical of them, you know, and that...

MCEVERS: Yeah.

MONTANARO: ...They don't have a lot of rope with the public. Again, of all the institutions we polled, Americans have the least amount of confidence in Congress and Republicans. That's a pretty bad sign for the party in power in an election year. But Democrats really should not start celebrating because they don't fare much better. And everyone in an elective office, frankly, has got to watch their back.

MCEVERS: And quickly, the media is an institution that of course has been a constant target of President Trump. What do people think about us?

MONTANARO: Yeah, well, they don't have a ton of confidence in the media, suffice it to say.

MCEVERS: OK.

MONTANARO: Just 30 percent say they do; 68 percent don't. Trump has talked a lot about fake news. We heard Jeff Flake today talk about how the free press is the enemy of despots. Well, it looks like Trump's attacks may be working because 53 percent of Republicans say they have no confidence in the media at all, and that's pretty bad when the truth and fairness, objectivity are the pillars of a free press.

MCEVERS: NPR's Domenico Montanaro with findings from the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. We'll have more tomorrow on Morning Edition. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're quite welcome.

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