ANXIETY NOSTALGIA AND MISTRUST

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PRRI-AVS-2015-Web

34 ANXIETY, NOSTALGIA, AND MISTRUST

Questions Comprising the Institutional Mistrust Index (IMI)

1. How much confidence do you have in each of the following institutions in

American society? ... The federal government

2. How much confidence do you have in each of the following institutions in

American society? ... News organizations

3. How much confidence do you have in each of the following institutions in

American society? ... Large business corporations

4. How well does the federal government look out for the needs and interests of

people like you?

A higher score on the Institutional Mistrust Index (IMI) indicates that a respondent generally distrusts

major institutions, while a low score on the IMI indicates that a respondent generally has

confidence in major institutions. Americans are fairly evenly distributed across the scale. More than

one-third of Americans express high levels of distrust

of major institutions, scoring very high (12%)

or high (23%) on the IMI. About three in ten (29%)

fall into the moderate category, and more than

one-third express significant trust in institutions,

scoring low (27%) or very low (9%) on the scale.

There are modest racial differences on the IMI.

Black and white Americans are equally likely to

express high levels of distrust in institutions (high

scores on the IMI) (32% vs. 36%, respectively).

Black Americans are more likely than white

Americans to have low scores on the IMI (45%

vs. 34%, respectively). Among whites, white

working-class Americans are more likely than

FIGURE 14. The Institutional Mistrust Index

9 12

Very high

High

27

23

Moderate

Low

29

Very low

Source: PRRI 2015 American Values Survey.

white college-educated Americans to have high scores on the IMI (40% vs. 31%, respectively).

Younger Americans are also significantly more likely than seniors to express high levels of distrust

in institutions. Nearly four in ten (37%) Americans under the age of 30 score high on the IMI,

compared to only 26% of seniors (age 65 and older).

Consistent with their less-engaged status, political independents (43%) are more likely to express

high levels of distrust (high scores on the IMI) than either Republicans (35%) or Democrats

(27%). Nearly half (46%) of those who identify as part of the Tea Party movement register a high

level of mistrust in institutions.

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