Annual Poll Reveals Americans Don’t Feel Good About The Majority Of American Institutions. But For Just One, Confidence Is At An All-Time High

It’s an election year, so you can’t get very far into your daily web surfing, TV flipping or social media scrolling without running into commentary on who/what people don’t have trust or confidence in right now. That got me wondering, though – what DO Americans have confidence in?

Fortunately, I knew some well-respected pollster out there would have the answer. (Thanks, Gallup!) And, turns out, it’s rather good news for small business owners.

In a 2015 poll listing 15 American institutions, small business ranked second – behind the military – in Americans’ confidence rating. (Small business was actually tops by a very narrow margin in 1997, and the military has been No. 1 every other year since 1989. Before that, organized religion had been head of the class in nearly every poll since Gallup started doing them in 1973. Interesting commentary on America, no?)

There’s quite a bit more good news for small biz – especially when you compare it to the other American institutions on the list. But let’s say it with numbers, shall we?


of American adults say they have either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in small business. This is tied for the all-time high confidence rating for small business in this poll. (And the other time it was 67% was – quite notably – June 2009. Just after the financial collapse and the same year that banks and big business had their all-time low confidence ratings.)


of Americans adults say they have either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in big business. It often ranks near the bottom of the confidence list and has finished last or tied for last in nine surveys.


The number of institutions for which a majority of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence. In addition to the military (72%) and small businesses (67%) the police just got more than half with 52%. Small business has always had a majority of Americans’ confidence since Gallup started including it on the list of institutions in 1997.


The number of institutions – again, the military and small business — polling in above their historical average. All 13 others rated below their historical averages this year. (Something Gallup writes about at length, and calls “the tide of dissatisfaction that is eroding public confidence.”)

So why do we love small business so much? I can think of a few reasons, but let me give Gallup a chance to explain:


Small businesses, as defined by government statistics, are the most likely source of employment for U.S. workers. Because they are more likely to be run or owned by citizens in local communities, they are often seen as more in tune with the needs of local communities than are larger corporations that must pay attention to the decisions of a potentially far-away management structure. And, small businesses are often called the “lifeblood” of the U.S. economy, as President Barack Obama described them in his 2014 Presidential Proclamation of National Small Business Week.

Owning My Own CEO Annie Roethel summed it up simply with a phrase I’ve heard her say quite a few times before. “People prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust.”

It’s worth noting that Gallup conducts the survey every summer, so we’ll be watching for the 2016 update in the coming months. The full 2015 break down is below, and for the data nerds out there, Gallup has even more fascinating stats for you.