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Americans' confidence in government hits new lows

WASHINGTON (Rebecca Kaplan/CBS News) -- To find a country that has great faith in its government institutions, one would have to look outside the U.S.

Americans have an all-time low level of confidence in the Supreme Court and Congress, and confidence in the presidency has dipped to a six-year low, according to a new Gallup poll

After brief uptick in 2009, confidence in all three institutions has eroded. The presidency has seen a 21-point dip (51 percent to 29 percent), the Supreme Court a 10-point dip (39 percent to 29 percent) and Congress a 10-point dip (17 percent to 7 percent).

Gallup notes that the poll does not mention the name of the president in office, but Americans tend to evaluate their confidence in the position based on who holds the office. The question was first asked in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush was in office, and 72 percent of Americans said they had confidence in the presidency. It came just after the successful first Persian Gulf War, when Bush's approval rating was at 89 percent. Still, confidence would drop to 50 percent by October 1991.

Clinton saw confidence in the presidency rise from 43 percent in his first year in office to 53 percent during his sixth. After the Monica Lewinsky scandal, it dropped to 42 percent.

Still, the presidency was viewed with more confidence under Clinton in the later years of his presidency than either of his successors. President George W. Bush saw confidence in the institution spike to 58 percent after the 9/11 attacks, but then slowly decline in the next two years. A series of sharp drops over the next several years led to a mere 26 percent confidence rating in the presidency by his last year of office.

That rose to 51 percent with after Mr. Obama was elected, and dropped sharply by his second year in office to 36 percent. The confidence level stayed in the 30s until 2014, dropping to 29 percent.

The Gallup findings track with the fact that Mr. Obama's approval rating has been lagging in recent months. A CBS News poll taken in late June found his job rating was just 40 percent, down from 43 percent in May but up from a low of 37 percent in November 2013.

The Supreme Court, like the presidency, has typically enjoyed a greater level of confidence among adults than Congress. The record high level of 56 percent was hit in 1985 and 1988, and hit a low of 34 percent in 2007 under George W. Bush. Since then, levels of confidence have remained under 40 percent.

Congress, a perennially unpopular institution among Americans, has never enjoyed a confidence level above 30 percent since Gallup began polling on the issue in 1991. They hit a high of 30 percent in 2004, but have since seen mostly steady declines. Just seven percent of people said they have faith in the institution this year.

CBS News found that just 14 percent of people approved of the job Congress is doing in June.

The Gallup poll was based on landline and cell phone interviews conducted June 5-8, 2014, with a random sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is -4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

(c) 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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