An Adjustment in Attitudes

Pew Research Center
(Click on link or on image above to go to Pew Research Center.)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2021 — Largely due to a major shift in perception among Republicans, some American institutions have suffered a major image decline. In July, the Pew Research Center conducted another survey of views and attitudes regarding the country’s key institutions and compared it with a similar study they conducted two years ago.

(The Pew Research report is available at this link: Republicans increasingly critical of several major U.S. institutions, including big corporations and banks)

As has been the case for the past few years, the people identifying with each of the two major political parties see things from an opposite perspective. For most institutions, the aggregate party respondents have become even more polarized in their views. In three particular instances the institutional favorability index changed rather significantly during the relatively short two-year interval between the Pew studies.

Expressing some optimism, the response to whether churches and religious organizations have a “positive or negative effect on the way things are going in the country,” actually received improved ratings.

Among both Republicans and Democrats, the religious-affiliated entities ascended. Now, 62 percent of the respondents believe these God-centric groups have a positive effect upon the country, up a net four points from the July 2019 survey. Republicans remained constant through the two surveys at a very high 76 percent approval rate. Democrats jumped from just 44 percent expressing a positive sentiment in 2019 to 52 percent this year.

For a pair of institutions, however, the normally disparate views surprisingly strike an equivalent balance. Concerning financial institutions and large corporations, the responses between the Republican and Democratic respondents were nearly identical.

An aggregate response total of 49 percent believe banks and financial institutions have a positive effect upon society. The party respondents traversed quite different paths in reaching a similar conclusion, however.

Republicans have an increasingly negative view of the entities, going from a 63 percent positive in 2019 to just 50 percent in the current survey. Democrats, on the other hand, have a more positive view and in a relatively substantial way. In 2019, 37 percent of Democrats thought the financial entities have a positive effect upon society, but that number shot up to 48 percent in 2021. This brings both party respondents to parity in that approximately half of each aggregate respondent cell holds a positive impression.

Large corporations are also at parity among the party respondents, but in an opposite direction. Here, the two party cells jointly see the companies as having a negative impact upon society at large.

A huge Republican downturn in perspective is largely the reason for the heavy negative response, especially when seeing the companies slightly improve their position among Democrats. Both changes could be related to the new “wokeism” position that some companies are adopting as they become more globalist in nature.

Among Republicans, the image of large corporations dropped from a 54 percent positive rating in 2019 all the way down to just 30 percent in the current survey. Conversely, company perception gained five positive percentage points among Democrats during the same time period, but even that increase moved them only to 28 percent who believe that large corporations have a positive effect upon society.

The biggest difference between the partisan cell respondents is their perception about colleges and universities. Democrats went from 71 percent in 2019 believing that colleges and universities have a positive effect upon society to 76 percent in the current 2021 survey.

Republicans, on the other hand, have grown even more negative toward the institutions of higher learning. This year, only 34 percent of the Republican respondent base view the universities as having a positive impact upon society, a net negative difference of four points from their perspective of two years ago.

The biggest change from an institution being at parity within the respondent cells in 2019 and polarized today lies with the high tech sector. In 2019, both Dems and Reps held a 58 percent positive influence view of the high tech companies. Now, with Democrats holding an even stronger opinion of them and Republicans’ much worse, the split stands at 63 percent positive among Democrats while just 38 percent of the GOP respondents hold that same view.

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