Index: Trust in Institutions

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on trust in institutions and was originally published in 2013.

Trust in Government

  • How many of the global public feel that their governments listen to them: 17%
  • How much of the global population trusts in institutions: almost half 
  • The number of Americans who trust institutions: less than half
  • How many people globally believe that business leaders and government officials will tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue: Less than one-fifth
  • The average level of confidence amongst citizens in 25 OECD countries:
    • In national government: 40%, down from 45% in 2007
    • In financial institutions: 43%
    • In public services such as local police and healthcare: 72% and 71% respectively

Executive Government

  • How many Americans trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always or most of the time” in September 2013: 19%
  • Those who trust the “men and women … who either hold or are running for public office”: 46%
  • Number of Americans who express a great deal or fair amount of trust in:
    • Local government: 71%
    • State government: 62%
    • Federal government: 52%
  • How many Americans trust in the ability of “the American people” to make judgments about political issues facing the country:  61%, declining every year since 2009
  • Those who have trust and confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle international problems: 49%
  • Number of Americans who feel “angry” at the federal government: 3 in 10, all-time high since first surveyed in 1997


  • Percentage of Americans who say “the political system can work fine, it’s the members of Congress that are the problem” in October 2013: 58%
  • Following the government shutdown, number of Americans who stated that Congress would work better if nearly every member was replaced next year: nearly half
  • Those who think that even an entire overhaul of Congress would not make much difference: 4 in 10 
  • Those who think that “most members of Congress have good intentions, it’s the political system that is broken” in October 2013: 32%

Trust in Media

  • Global trust in media (traditional, social, hybrid, owned, online search): 57% and rising
  • The percentage of Americans who say they have “a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media”: 44% – the lowest level since first surveyed in 1997
  • How many Americans see the mass media as too liberal: 46%
    • As too conservative: 13%
    • As “just about right”: 37%
  • The number of Americans who see the press as fulfilling the role of political watchdog and believe press criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done: 68%
  • The proportion of Americans who have “only a little/not at all” level of trust in Facebook to protect privacy and personal information: three in four
    • In Google: 68%
    • In their cell phone provider: 63%

Trust in Industry

  • Global trust in business: 58%
  • How much of the global public trusts financial institutions: 50%
  • Proportion of the global public who consider themselves informed about the banking scandals: more than half
  • Of those, how many Americans report they now trust banks less: almost half
  • Number of respondents globally who say they trust tech companies to do what’s right: 77%, most trusted industry
  • Number of consumers across eight markets who were “confident” or “somewhat confident” that the tech sector can provide long-term solutions to meet the world’s toughest challenges: 76%