ANXIETY NOSTALGIA AND MISTRUST

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FINDINGS FROM THE 2015 AMERICAN VALUES SURVEY 35

Americans who highly distrust institutions (high scores on the IMI) are more likely than those who

trust institutions (low scores on the IMI) to say that their vote does not matter because elections

are controlled by wealthy people and large corporations (74% vs. 57%, respectively).

Americans with high levels of institutional mistrust (high scores on the IMI) are more likely than

those who score low on the IMI to say they seldom or never attend religious services (42% vs.

35%, respectively). Similarly, only about four in ten (39%) Americans who express high levels of

distrust, compared to 72% of Americans who score low on the IMI, say they have at least some

confidence in organized religion.

Americans who highly distrust major institutions (high scores on the IMI) are significantly more

likely than those who mostly trust major institutions (low scores on the IMI) to say that the federal

government does not look out for the needs and interests of the middle class (77% vs. 34%,

respectively) or low-income people (66% vs. 46%, respectively).

In terms of outlook, Americans who mistrust institutions (high scores on the IMI) hold a decidedly

pessimistic outlook on America’s present and future. Two-thirds (66%) of those with high levels

of mistrust say that American culture and way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s,

while six in ten (60%) of those who score low on the IMI say the opposite—that things have

become better. Similarly, while more than six in ten (62%) Americans who highly distrust major

institutions say America’s best days are behind us, the same proportion (62%) of Americans who

score low on the IMI say America’s best days are ahead of us.

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