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A vote of 'no confidence' for Congress, media

Big banks blamed for the deepest economic dip since the Great Depression? Public schools scathingly dubbed a failure to the nation’s children? Journalists gloomily surveying this week’s ham-handed bobbling of a delicate story about politics, race, and the state of the media?

You can all breathe a small sigh of relief. People still like you better than Congress.

Public confidence in the group dubbed “the world’s greatest deliberative body” has hit an all-time low in this year’s Gallup Confidence in Institutions poll, with only 11 percent of Americans saying that they have "a great deal" or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress.

Confidence ratings for Congress have historically been fairly low, never rising far above 40 percent since the poll began in 1973. But this year’s confidence drop – down 6 points since last year and almost 20 since the early 2000s – puts Congress dead last among the 16 institutions tested by Gallup this year.

“If you’re looking for a way to infuriate the public, just do what we’re doing,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently quipped. (Graham is fond of wondering aloud who exactly makes up the miniscule portion of Americans who DO approve of the job Congress is doing.)

Also bringing up the rear in the poll: the news media. Only 22 percent of respondents expressed much confidence in television news, with newspapers faring only a few points better. Organized labor, big business, and HMOs also earn confidence from less of a quarter of Americans, while the military and small businesses lead the pack with the highest public faith.

Here’s the complete list of institutions, with the percentage of respondents who said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in each one:

The military – 76 percent
Small business – 66
The police – 59
The church/organized religion – 48
The medical system – 40
The presidency – 36
The Supreme Court – 36
Public schools – 34
The criminal justice system – 27
Newspapers – 25
Banks - 23
Television news – 22
Organized labor – 20
Big business – 19
HMOs – 19
Congress – 11