Gen Z Voices Lackluster Trust in Major U.S. Institutions

Members of Generation Z in the U.S. — those between the ages of 12 and 26 — generally lack trust in political and societal institutions, according to a new study from Gallup and Walton Family Foundation. Among the institutions rated in the survey, youth express the lowest levels of trust in Congress, the news, the presidency and large technology companies, with one in six or fewer reporting they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in each.

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Similarly, fewer than one in four Gen Z members trust the information they find on the internet, the U.S. Supreme Court and the criminal justice system. Science garners the most trust, at 71%.

These results are based on the Gallup and Walton Family Foundation-State of American Youth Survey, conducted April 24-May 8, 2023, with a sample of 3,114 U.S. children and adults aged 12 to 26.

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Younger Gen Z Members More Positive About Institutions

Within Gen Z, K-12 students aged 12 to 18 are generally more trusting of institutions compared with older members of the generation, those aged 18 to 26 who are not enrolled in K-12 schools. The younger cohort of Gen Z expresses greater confidence in nine institutions, with the widest gaps seen in the military and the police. While 51% of younger Gen Z members have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the military, 30% of those aged 18 to 26 say the same. Similarly, 48% of younger Gen Z members trust the police, compared with 28% of those aged 18 to 26.

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Police, Military and Science Divide Democratic and Republican Young Adults

Among 18- to 26-year-old Gen Z members, Republicans (71%) are more likely than Democrats (12%) to report having a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the police. Similarly, Republican young adults express far greater trust in the military than their Democratic peers (62% vs. 14%, respectively).

In contrast, young Democrats are far more trusting of science, at 92%, compared with 50% of Republicans.

Young adults are more politically aligned in their distrust of Congress, large technology companies, and the information they find online.

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Implications

Overall, young people in the U.S. lack trust in several key political and social institutions, with those aged 18 to 26 expressing even less trust than their younger peers in most institutions.

With the exception of science, no institution is trusted by a majority of Gen Z members. Republican and Democratic youth diverge in their confidence in many of these institutions; science is the only institution that a majority of Gen Z Democrats trust, and the police and military are the only institutions that most young Republicans trust. These findings are consistent with prior Gallup reports on the erosion of national adults’ trust in most U.S. institutions, a trend that has accelerated in recent years.

Learn more from the Gallup and Walton Family Foundation-State of American Youth Survey.

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