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Americans’ faith in institutions has been sliding for years. The chaos in Congress isn’t helping

WASHINGTON (AP) — For many Americans, the Republican dysfunction that has ground business in the U.S. House to a halt as two wars rage abroad and a budget crisis looms at home is feeding into a longer-term pessimism about the country’s core institutions.

The lack of faith extends beyond Congress, with recent polling conducted both before and after the leadership meltdown finding a mistrust in everything from the courts to organized religion. The GOP internal bickering that for nearly three weeks has left open the speaker’s position — second in line to the presidency — is widely seen as the latest indication of deep problems with the nation’s bedrock institutions.

“They’re holding up the people’s business because they’re so dysfunctional,” said Christopher Lauff, 57, of Fargo, North Dakota.

Part of that business, he said, is approving money for Ukraine to continue its fight against Russia’s invasion, something he says ultimately helps the U.S. — a point President Joe Biden stressed Thursday during an Oval Office address.

“We’re usually the knight in shining armor, but we can’t be that now,” said Lauff, a Democrat.

The disdain for Congress is just one area where Americans say they are losing faith. Various polls say the negative feelings include a loss of confidence or interest in institutions such as organized religion, policing, the Supreme Court, even banking.

“Trust in institutions has deteriorated substantially,” said Kay Schlozman, professor of political science at Boston College. Schlozman said she believes in government and the things it provides, such as national defense and access to health care, but “I also can very much understand why the American people can be cynical about government.”

The turmoil in the House and the federal case against Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who is facing charges for bribery, show that both major parties are contributing to the dour outlook.

The House has been without a permanent leader since early October after a small cadre of right-wing Republicans pushed out a member of their own party, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Subsequent attempts to replace him have failed.

“That is an example of exactly the kind of thing that I would say can’t foster trust of government among the American people — the multiple votes, the fractiousness within parties, of people being personally ambitious and not being willing to compromise” Schlozman said.

About half of adults (53%) say they have “hardly any confidence at all” in the people running Congress, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that was conducted in October. That’s in line with 49% who said that in March. Just 3% have a great deal of confidence in Congress, virtually unchanged from March.

By Associated Press

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