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Perceptions of the U.S. Justice System - Division of Media Relations and Public Affairs - American Bar Association

Perceptions of the U.S. Justice System
Opinion
Comparison of Confidence Levels in Current and Previous Study

An assessment of confidence levels in these same categories and professions was previously done twenty years ago in a study by Yankelovich (1978). Although the methodology was different (in-person interviews versus telephone interviews), the sample is comparable (general population) and the question was worded the same. Additionally, the institutions, for the most part, remained the same. The current study included some additional professions:

    • the U.S. justice system in general
    • the accounting profession/accountants
    • the judiciary/judges
    • the legal profession/ lawyers

The Yankelovich study had also asked about confidence in American business and organized labor, which were not included in the current study.

Changes in perceptions are evident. The level of confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court has improved since 1978, as has the level of confidence in the local police, federal courts (besides the U.S. Supreme Court), and state and local courts. On the other hand, the public has significantly lower confidence in doctors, organized religion, public schools, U.S. Congress, and most notably, the media (29% down to 8%).

 

Extremely/Very Confident

 

Yankelovich (1978)

MARC (1998)

 

(1931)

%

A

(1000)

%

B

         
U.S. Supreme Court

36

 

50

A
The Local Police

40

 

47

A
Medical Profession/Doctors

50

B

46

 
Accounting Profession/Accountants

NA

 

39

 
Organized Religion

41

B

37

 
Federal Courts other than U.S. Supreme Court

29

 

34

A
Judiciary/Judges

NA

 

32

 
U.S. Justice System in General

NA

 

30

 
State and Local Courts

23

 

28

A
The Public Schools

37

B

27

 
The Executive Branch of the Federal

Government – Office of the President;

Departments of Commerce, Defense, etc.

27

 

26

 
The Executive Branches of State/Local

Government – Office of Governors, Mayors,

Etc.

21

 

24

a
The State Legislatures

21

 

19

 
Your State's Prison System

17

 

19

 
U.S. Congress

23

B

18

 
The Legal Profession/Lawyers

NA

 

14

 
The Media

29

B

8

 

Capital letter indicates significant difference at the 95% confidence level; lower case letter indicates significant difference at the 90% confidence level.

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Survey and report prepared by M/A/R/CŪ Research.