ROCHESTER, N.Y."" Over the past four decades, the Harris Poll has measured the confidence, or lack of confidence, in the leaders of major institutions. This year's survey finds that confidence has declined substantially since last year. Fifteen of the sixteen items listed show a fall in confidence and the overall Harris Interactive Confidence Index has fallen nine points this year.




The largest declines in those who have a "great deal of confidence" are for medicine (down from 37% to 28%), leadership in the White House (down from 22% last year to 15%) and for the relatively highly rated small business leaders (down from 54% to 47%).




Only one institution shows an improvement. Those who have a great deal of confidence in leaders of the military have increased from 46 percent to 51 percent. This almost certainly reflects a sense that the situation in Iraq is improving and the so-called "surge" has been somewhat successful. It may also reflect public confidence in General David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq.




These are the results of a Harris Poll of 1,010 adults surveyed by telephone between February 5 and 11, 2008.




As a result of the fall in confidence levels, the Harris Interactive Confidence Index had dropped very sharply from 53 in 2007 to 44 this year. This is the lowest it has been in eleven years.




This poll also shows significant declines in the number of people who have a great deal of confidence in:




"&

162; Wall Street, down six points from 17 percent to only 11




percent (reflecting, presumably, the decline of the stock




market);




"&

162; Major Educational Institutions, down five points from 37




percent to 32 percent;




"&

162; The Courts and the Justice Systems, also down five points from 21 percent to 16 percent.




Institutions at the Top of the List




In this year's survey the leaders of six institutions enjoy the most confidence:




"&

162; The military (51% have a great deal of confidence);




"&

162; Small business (47%);




"&

162; Major educational institutions (32%);




"&

162; Medicine (28%);




"&

162; Organized religion (25%);




"&

162; The Supreme Court (25%).




Institutions at the Bottom of the List




Leaders of the following institution engender the lowest levels of confidence:




"&

162; The Congress (only 8% have a great deal of confidence);




"&

162; The press (10%);




"&

162; Organized labor (11%);




"&

162; Wall Street (11%);




"&

162; Major companies (14%).




Republicans Have More Confidence in the Leaders of Some Institutions and Democrats Have More Confidence in Others




Republicans tend to have more confidence than Democrats in the leaders of:




"&

162; The military (76% vs. 37%);




"&

162; Small business (58% vs. 40%);




"&

162; Medicine (38% vs. 24%);




"&

162; The Supreme Court (37% vs. 20%);




"&

162; Organized religion (35% vs. 21%);




"" The White House (30% vs. 7%);




"" Major companies (21% vs. 12%);




"" Wall Street (15% vs. 9%).




Democrats, on the other hand, tend to have more confidence in the leaders of:




"" Major educational institutions (39% vs. 25%);




"" Television news (22% vs. 13%);




"" Organized labor (17% vs. 6%);




"" The press (17% vs. 5%);




"" Congress (11% vs. 6%).




Why Confidence Levels Rise and Fall and Why Have They Fallen this Year?




The Harris Poll measures the changing levels of confidence from year to year but it does not explain why they change. We can provide plausible explanations for some, but not all of the changes.




We believe that al least two forces change these numbers. One is specific events (or public perception of events). These would explain the higher level of confidence in the military and the lower level of confidence in the White House (parallel to the recent decline in President Bush's ratings).




Another explanation is the halo effect from general mood of the country that appears to raise or lower the levels of confidence in leaders generally when things seem to be going well, confidence rise - and vice versa.




However, sometimes confidence in specific institutions rises or falls for reasons we do not understand. In this year's survey we do not offer an explanation for the sharp decline in confidence in the leaders of small business or medicine. It should be noted however that both of these still do much better than most of the institutions listed. So What?




Public perceptions of different institutions and their leaders matter. They influence behavior. Legislators and regulators are probably more likely to take a tougher line with unpopular institutions than with popular ones. The influence of Corporate America is probably hurt by the low standing of major companies but helped by the high standing of small business. As confidence in Wall Street declines, legislators may be inclined to investigate or regulate financial markets. The unpopularity of organized labor may make it harder for unions to recruit new members. This year's increased respect for our military leaders probably increases their influence on Capitol Hill. In a democracy, popularity and unpopularity often make a difference.




TABLE —




CURRENT CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (2008)




Base: All Adults




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A Great Deal * Only some Confidence * Not Too Confident * Hardly Any Confidence * Not Sure




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""-




% % % % %




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The military 51 34 15 —




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Small business 47 45 5 — 1




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Major educational institutions, such as colleges and universities 32 49 15 4




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Medicine 28 46 23 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The U.S. Supreme Court 25 55 16 — -




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Organized religion 25 46 24 — 1




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Public schools 20 54 25 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The courts and the justice system 16 55 27 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Television news 16 55 29 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The White House 15 41 41 2 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Major companies 14 53 29 2 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Organized labor 11 53 29 6 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Wall Street 11 52 27 9 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The press 10 48 41 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Law firms 10 52 33 4 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Congress 8 50 39 2 —




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.




CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS OF INSTITUTIONS (1991-2000)




"As far as people in charge of running (READ EACH ITEM) are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"




Those saying "a great deal of confidence"




Base: All Adults




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




% % % % % % % % % %




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The military X 50 57 39 43 47 37 44 54 48




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Small business 47 X X X X X X X X X




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Major educational institutions such as colleges and universities X 29 23 25 27 30 27 37 37 36




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The U.S. Supreme Court 15 30 26 31 32 31 28 37 42 34




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Medicine 23 22 22 23 26 29 29 38 39 44




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Organized religion 21 11 X X 24 X 20 25 27 26




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The White House X 25 23 18 13 15 15 20 22 21




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Public schools X X X X X X X X X X




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The courts and the justice system X X X X X X X X X X




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Television news 9 12 23 20 16 21 18 26 23 20




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Wall Street 14 13 13 15 13 17 17 18 30 30




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The press X X 15 13 11 14 11 14 15 13




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Major companies 20 10 16 19 21 21 18 21 23 28




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Organized labor 21 11 X X 8 X 9 13 15 15




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Congress 9 16 12 8 10 10 11 12 12 15




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Law firms X 13 11 8 9 11 7 11 10 12




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




The executive branch of the federal government X X 15 12 9 12 12 17 17 18




""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""




Methodology




The Harris Poll(R) was conducted by telephone within the United States between February 5 and 11, 2008 among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, size of place (urbanicity), and number of phone lines voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.




The Harris Interactive Confidence in Leadership Index measures changes in the public's confidence in various institutions. It is derived in the following manner:




1. The index is based on the mean value of the items asked.




2. All items have equal weight.




3. The year 1966, the first year the items were asked, was set as




a reference year for the index and assigned a score of 100.




4. In order to yield a score of 100 in 1966, the mean value of the




original 10 items was multiplied by a factor of 2.11. This




same factor was then applied to the mean score in subsequent




years, as long as the same items were asked.




5. Whenever a new item is added, the multiplication factor is




changed so that the new item has no effect on that year's




score. The new factor is derived by calculating the index with




and without the new item(s), taking the ratio of the two




scores, and multiplying this ratio by the old factor. (The




current factor is 2.14).




6. In years when an item included in a previous year is not asked,




it is assumed for calculation purposes that no change has




occurred in that item since the last time it was asked.




All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling are subject to ,multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.




These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.




SOURCE: Harris Interactive Copyright Business Wire 2008