Americans’ Confidence in Leaders Rises, Remains Low

Contact: Patrick McKiernan
Phone: (617) 496-4695
Date: November 01, 2012

Cambridge, MA—With the election fast approaching, Americans reported an overall increase in confidence in their leaders for only the second time since 2005. But the news is not altogether encouraging, because 69% of Americans also think we currently have a leadership crisis. At the same time, however, two-thirds of Americans believe the best way to help make leadership more effective is by voting.

These are among the key findings of a nationwide poll, the National Leadership Index (NLI), released today by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School and Merriman River Group. The survey is the eighth annual measurement of public attitudes toward the leadership of 13 different sectors in America, ranging from business and nonprofits to politics and religion.

“Anytime you see an increase in confidence in our leaders, it is encouraging,” said Seth Rosenthal, the survey’s lead author. “At the same time, a vast majority of Americans believe we have a crisis in leadership and that we will decline as a nation unless we do something about it. Fortunately, with the election just days away, Americans see voting as the best means of addressing this crisis, and nearly nine out of ten feel a personal responsibility to participate in making America’s leadership more effective.”

For the second consecutive year, only two sectors measured in this year’s report—military and medical leadership—received above-average confidence scores. Ratings for the remaining eleven sectors fell into or remained in the below-average range. Congress replaced Wall Street as the sector having the least confidence—a distinction Wall Street had held since 2008. Confidence in the leadership of both sectors remained barely above the “none at all” distinction.

Additional highlights from this year’s National Leadership Index:

• The news media was the only sector in which confidence levels decreased.
• Conservatives, moderates, and liberals all reported increased confidence in America’s business leaders.
• Conservatives’ overall confidence rose for the first time in the survey’s history, but remains significantly below the confidence levels of liberals and moderates.
• Liberals alone felt increased confidence in the leadership of the Executive Branch.

The complete report is available online at: http://bit.ly/NLI2012.

The poll surveyed a demographically representative sample of 1,013 U.S. citizens (margin of error ± 3.0 percent).

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