Jump to:Page Content
Home > News & Events > News > Press Releases > A Vote of No Confidence in America’s Leaders, According to the 2007 National Leadership IndexGrowing concern about an across-the-board ‘leadership crisis’
A new survey reveals a profound and growing unhappiness among Americans with their current leaders, not only in politics but in nearly every sphere. More than three quarters of the public (77%) now say the country has a “crisis” in leadership—up from 69% a year ago and 65% two years ago. And nearly eight in ten Americans (79%) believe that the United States will decline as a nation unless it soon gets better leaders.
Americans express the highest confidence for leaders in the military and medical sectors, but are scornful of those in Congress and the executive branch. Leaders in the media now come in dead last among the 12 major sectors of society, and 64% of Americans say they distrust reporting on the 2008 presidential race.
These are the results of the 3rd annual National Leadership Index (NLI) released today. The Index is composed by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government based upon a survey of the American public conducted jointly with U.S.News & World Report and Yankelovich, Inc. The survey was conducted from Sept. 4–17, 2007, included 1,207 respondents, and had a sampling error of plus or minus 2.8%.
“These new results should be a wake-up call for the nation,” said David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership and a professor of public service at the Kennedy School. “At a moment when the country is in the midst of a critical testing period both at home and abroad, our citizens express an alarming lack of confidence in those running key institutions. Unless our leaders can earn the respect of more followers, we will have an incredibly hard time forging a path into a good future.”
Americans now lack even a moderate amount of trust in the leaders of 10 of the 12 sectors. And for the second year in a row, confidence has not increased in a single sector.
But the saving grace in the 2007 NLI is that Americans retain a sense of optimism about the future. Respondents say they are confident that voters will select a good president in next year’s election, regardless of which party they expect to win. Moreover, most Americans believe the nation will have better leaders in 20 years. “This optimism is certainly encouraging,” Gergen added, “but we must recognize that if these dreams are unfulfilled, the public will experience even deeper discontent with our leaders.”
Among the specific findings of this year’s NLI are the following:
“The findings tell us that people are increasingly skeptical about the people in key leadership positions,” said Todd Pittinsky, an associate professor at the Kennedy School and primary investigator of the research program. “But there is also a sense that things can change, and will change for the better, in coming years.”
Seth Rosenthal, the lead author of the report and a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Public Leadership, commented, “Leaders in the news media should pay particular attention to this survey. By an almost two-to-one margin the American people distrust the news coverage of the 2008 presidential election, and that credibility gap may be contributing to broader concerns the American people have about the electoral process.”
Looking ahead, approximately two in three survey respondents (65%) say it matters “a great deal” which candidate is elected president in 2008. Other NLI results specific to the 2008 elections include:
The National Study of Confidence in Leadership is a social science research program examining the attitudes of the American public toward the nation’s leadership. The study includes the National Leadership Index 2007, a measure of the public’s confidence in the leadership of different sectors of society. The complete report for this year’s Index can be found at www.ksg.harvard.edu/leadership.
The Center for Public Leadership and U.S.News & World Report created the Index with the help of TSC, a division of the market research firm Yankelovich. TSC then conducted more than 1,200 interviews in September 2007, and the results were released in conjunction with the 2007 edition of “America’s Best Leaders,” an annual editorial feature of U.S. News. This special feature, on newsstands today, explores the issue of leadership and profiles America’s foremost current leaders. A complete list of those leaders is available at www.usnews.com.
Survey results were obtained through telephone interviews among a representative sample of adults (18 years of age or older) in the continental United States. A total of 1,207 respondents were interviewed. The interviews were conducted from September 4–17, 2007. The sampling error is plus or minus 2.8%.
About U.S.News & World Report
Founded in 1933, the weekly national news magazine U.S.News & World Report is devoted to investigative journalism and reporting and to analyzing national and international affairs, politics, business, health, science, technology and social trends. Through its annual rankings of America's Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools and America's Best Hospitals, and its News You Can Use® brand, U.S. News has earned a reputation as the leading provider of service news and information that improves the quality of life of its readers. Available online at www.usnews.com, the U.S. News Web site extends that brand promise and delivers the best, most accurate information on the Web, organized in a way that is accessible and easy to use.
About the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Established in 2000 through a generous grant from the Wexner Foundation, the Center for Public Leadership was created to serve the common good by promoting excellence in leadership research, education, and development. CPL provides cutting-edge teaching and research as well as hands-on training in the practical skills of leadership for people in government, nonprofits, and business. This fall, for the second year in a row, Leadership Excellence magazine rated CPL second among all university-based leadership development programs in North America. For more information, go to www.ksg.harvard.edu/leadership.
The Segmentation Company (TSC), a division of Yankelovich, is a full-service custom research division conducting research for business, the media, associations, and government. We specialize in studies conducted for media release as well as in segmentation research, positioning studies, brand equity, and market sizing.
Yankelovich, Inc. (www.yankelovich.com) delivers measurable breakthroughs in marketing productivity for it clients. For more than 30 years, the Yankelovich MONITOR has tracked and forecasted consumer value and lifestyle trends. Yankelovich is headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC, with offices in Norwalk, CT and Atlanta, GA.