From corporate scandals to executive pay packages, big business hasn't exactly been basking in a golden glow. But it's just the opposite for small businesses, according to a Harris Interactive Poll of 1,013 U.S. adults. In the survey, which measures how much confidence people have in different institutions, small business topped the list. With 54 percent saying that small business inspired a great deal of trust, it was also the only institution this year that won majority approval. Meanwhile, only 17 percent and 16 percent, respectively, cited confidence in Wall Street and major companies. Congress came in last, behind law firms and the press, with 10 percent.
Harris had been surveying attitudes about big business for decades but only added small business in 2005, when "it dawned on us that there was a big divide," says Regina Corso, director of the poll. Since then, small business has soared in the rankings. "Everybody knows somebody who has a small business–the guy who runs the dry cleaner or the small computer company out of their living room," explains Corso. Small business "is real and hits home," she says. While people might have great trust in the military, which placed second in the survey, other entities, including the White House, the Supreme Court, and organized religion, have taken a beating in the media, increasing the public's distrust of them. The three suffered the biggest drops in the poll.
Corso says measuring public opinions about such American institutions might serve to foster changes. "We like to hope that public opinion gets listened to," she says.