The confidence rating numbers are below (it's simpler to read in graph format at Gallup's site, but I'll present the numbers in a table):
Institution June '06 June '07 The Military 73% 69% The Police 58% 54% Church/Organized Religion 52% 46% Banks 49% 41% The U.S. Supreme Court 40% 34% Public Schools 37% 33% The Medical System 38% 31% The Presidency 33% 25% Television News 31% 23% Newspapers 30% 22% Criminal Justice System 25% 19% Organized Labor 24% 19% Big Business 18% 18% HMOs 15% 15% Congress 19% 14%
[W]hat these numbers say more than anything is that neither party has large reason to rejoice: the truth is that Americans are sick and tired of the status quo, and they don't believe that anyone is working in their best interests right now--not the schools, the courts, the churches, the government, business, the media, the police, not anybody. That is fundamentally a very scary thing because our entire society runs on trust in major public and private institutions: without that trust, democracy, representative governments and entire economies fall into ruins. While we Democrats laugh at Bush's low approval ratings and the Republicans laugh at Congress' confidence ratings, America is falling into grave danger of a crisis of confidence in itself and its ability to maintain a functional society.
I don't know that thereisnospoon's conclusions are correct on how to repair American's increasing lack of confidence in our public institutions, but I suspect that his conclusions of the consequences of the failure to repair it are very accurate. It's true that everything stands on a foundation of trust. One way or another, this needs to be rectified.