The Gallup Trust Survey is another indicator that American democracy is still under threat and that trust in our institutions is eroding. Annual results released this week show that for government agencies, 25% have confidence in the US Supreme Court, 23% in the presidency and a paltry 7% in Congress. The media didn’t fare much better: 16% of Americans trusted newspapers and 11% trusted television news. The findings remind us that we need leadership, and business – and small businesses – is the place to look for it.
This year’s results also showed that small businesses are once again most trusted institution in the United States. Given the state of the country, this highlights the important role small business owners can play in helping solve problems – both in the markets and in government.
The survey found that 68% of Americans have high or high levels of trust in small businesses, with the military in second place at 64%. To put this in perspective, only 45% have this confidence in the police, up from 51% in 2021, and 38% feel this way about the medical system compared to 44% last year.
This level of mistrust is already having serious consequences. The United States was downgraded from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2016, and 32% of voters mistakenly believe the 2020 election was stolen. Politicians seeking to capitalize on this belief have filed more than 600 bills in 49 states targeting voting rights since 2020.
Entrepreneurs of all sizes seem to agree. Research of the Business & Democracy Initiative found that 96% of business leaders consider the existence of a functioning democracy important for a strong economy. They also believe that businesses should play 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 communities and their voice is paramount in defending our democracy and institutions. Businesses depend on 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 conditions for economic success. It is critical that small business owners use their leadership platform to inform their communities, influence policy and protect our democracy.