In a Turbulent Time, Americans Place More Trust in Small Businesses Than in Other Sectors

Consumer confidence in most American institutions dipped over the past year, with big businesses continuing to lose support. But the public retains a strong belief in small businesses, which are the most trustworthy U.S. institutions, according to a poll from Gallup released this week. The poll shows that 68 percent of respondents expressed either a great deal or quite a lot of faith in small businesses; that’s down two percentage points from last year’s 70 percent.

The faith in small businesses and the military bridges the partisan divide seen in Congress and elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, American trust in government institutions took a hit: Confidence in the Supreme Court fell by 11 percentage points, from 36 percent to 25 percent, while confidence in the presidency suffered a 15 percentage point drop, from 38 percent to 23 percent. Congress ranked dead last on the list, with public support falling to 7 percent, down five percentage points from last year’s 12 percent.

Small businesses have received favorable attention from the public in recent years. Consumers continue to be wary of big business, which scored a paltry 14 percent favorable opinion in the survey, down 4 percentage points from 2021.

Research from Deloitte shows consumers are increasingly interested in shopping with brands that outline a clear purpose, though price and quality continues to drive more attention to a company. Still, purpose-driven brands are likely to reap a competitive advantage over competitors that aren’t purpose-driven, according to the Deloitte report, issued last October.

The level of confidence in small businesses also suggests that they have a meaningful role to play as trust erodes in our institutions — especially given economic and political uncertainty. A majority of business leaders expressed some degree of concern about democracy earlier this year, while 85 percent of business leaders noted that capitalism is either very dependent or somewhat dependent on a democracy that functions well. Those findings came from a poll conducted by data intelligence company Morning Consult and carried out for the consulting firm Public Private Strategies, which helps create partnerships, build coalitions, and bridge opportunities between the public and private sectors. 

The Gallup poll was conducted between June 1 to June 20 and surveyed a random sample of 1,015 U.S. adults. Gallup first started taking the temperature on public confidence in the country’s institutions in 1973 and began measuring consumer confidence in small businesses in 1998.

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