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Americans are becoming less confident in their government than people in other rich countries: polls

Noah Sheidlower,Madison Hall   

Americans are becoming less confident in their government than people in other rich countries: polls
  • New Gallup data reveals the US has fallen behind many G7 countries in key indicators.
  • 26% of Americans struggled to afford food in 2023, and confidence in the military has fallen.

The US may be losing its strong standing among the world's most developed nations.

New data from Gallup released Wednesday shows that for the first time in nearly two decades of polling, the US has fallen behind several G7 countries — an informal group of industrialized democracies — for indicators such as people's ability to meet basic needs, confidence in the national government, and trust in the military.

"The U.S. remains the dominant voice of the G7 on the global stage," the Gallup report notes. "But the reality of public opinion at home is starting to tell a different story: one in which the U.S. no longer stands out as a leader in confidence in institutions, fundamental to its democracy."

The US spends more on its military than most of the G7 countries combined, though confidence has progressively fallen over the last few years. US confidence in the military fell to a new low of 81% — and for the first time, US confidence fell below another G7 nation, France.

The drop in confidence began shortly after the Biden Administration's decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan in 2021, falling from 93% reported confidence in 2020 in former President Donald Trump's final year in the White House to 81% in 2023 more than halfway through Biden's term.

Additionally, Gallup's polling revealed that just a third of Americans in 2023 thought the US was spending the right amount on defense, with 35% thinking the US spends too much and 29% believing that the Department of Defense's total budget of $851.8 billion in 2023 wasn't enough.

The survey also noted a steep drop in confidence in the US judicial system, with the share of respondents saying they were confident falling to 42% in 2023, making it the nation with the lowest judicial confidence and slightly lower than Italy. The sharp drop in reported confidence in 2023 occurred the same year four grand juries across the country indicted former president Trump, charging him with 91 felonies, which he and many of his supporters have deemed as politically motivated.

The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade's decades-old abortion precedent in 2022 may have played a role in the drop in reported confidence as well, a decision that nearly 60% of Americans disapprove of, according to Pew Research.

After a tumultuous 2023 in the House of Representatives that immediately began with a power struggle, later leading to former Rep. Kevin McCarthy historically getting ousted as speaker, Gallup reported that public confidence in the US government fell to just 30%, or 3 percentage points beneath the United Kingdom, which has cycled through 3 prime ministers since mid-2022.

Despite those sour views of American institutions, the country's economy remains stronger than its G7 peers. US GDP grew 2.5% in 2023 from the previous year, compared to Japan at 1.9% and Canada at 1.5%, according to the OECD.

Still, each year since 2009, the US has had the highest — or tied highest — percentage of residents saying they were struggling to afford food. In 2023, 26% of Americans at times struggled to afford food in the last 12 months, compared to the next highest, Canada, at 17%. Japan, the lowest of the G7 countries, was only 8%.

"Even though the U.S. economy is growing faster than any other G7 country, the economic perceptions among its people do not fully reflect this economic reality," Benedict Vigers, associate consultant and author of the report, told BI. "Americans are split on their economic trajectory: with 44% thinking their local economies are getting better, and 48% thinking they are getting worse. Similarly, the proportion of Americans who are 'living comfortably on their present incomes' dipped again in 2023 to 41% - it has not been lower than this in over a decade."