The Gallup Confidence Survey is another indicator that American democracy continues to be under threat and trust in our institutions is eroding. The annual results released this week found that for government institutions, 25% have confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, 23% in the presidency, and a paltry 7% in Congress. The media didn’t fare much better with 16% of Americans having faith in newspapers and 11% in television news. The findings are a reminder that we need leadership, and business – and small business – is the place to look for it.
This year’s results also showed that small business is once again the most trusted institution in the United States. Given the state of the country, this further emphasizes the important role small business owners can play in helping us solve problems – both in markets and government.
The survey reported that 68% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in small businesses, while the military came in second at 64%. To put this into perspective, only 45% have this level of confidence in the police, down from 51% in 2021, and 38% feel this way about the medical system compared to 44% last year.
This level of distrust is already producing severe consequences. The United States was downgraded from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2016, and 32% of voters wrongly believe that the 2020 election was stolen. Politicians seeking to capitalize on this belief have introduced over 600 bills in 49 states targeting voting rights since 2020.
Business owners of all sizes seem to agree. Research by the Business & Democracy Initiative found that 96% of business leaders believe the existence of a well-functioning democracy is important to a strong economy. They also believe that businesses should have an active role in the democratic process, with 81% agreeing that businesses should act to ensure safe and fair elections.
Small business owners are trusted voices in their community and their voice is paramount in defending our democracy and institutions. Businesses depend on a strong democracy to thrive, and they face unprecedented risk if the political system erodes. Political instability can increase the cost of capital, stifle innovation, and impact supply chains; and as the rule of law erodes, it undermines the preconditions for economic success. It is critical that small business owners use their leadership platform to inform their communities, influence policy, and protect our democracy.