SURVEY: Young Americans trust college profs more than military, police, religious leaders

Young Americans show less trust in key institutions, including the military, police officers, and religious leaders, than college professors, a new survey finds. 

The results were part of a broad study on “Trust and Distrust in America” conducted in late 2018 by the Pew Research Center. The survey interviewed 10,618 U.S. adults and grouped them in age groups of “18-29,” “30-49,” “50-64,” and “65+.”

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The study found that 74 percent of U.S. adults between the ages of 18-29 trust college professors, while only 69 percent, 67 percent, and 50 percent of them trusted the military, police officers, and religious leaders, respectively. 

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For each of these three institutions, young Americans exhibited far less trust than their older American counterparts. For example, while only about seven out of ten young adults ages 18-29 are confident in the military, 81 percent of adults between the ages of 30  and 49, 90 percent of adults between the ages of 50 to 64, and 92 percent of adults aged 65 and older responded that they trusted members of the institution.

The older Americans trusted police officers more than younger Americans by an 18 percent margin -- that margin increases to 21 percent for religious leaders. However, young adults trust college and university professors more than their elders by a margin of 11 percent.

Young Americans also demonstrated less trust in their fellow citizens regarding American civility. Only around one-third of young people (35 percent) said that they have confidence in the people of America to respect the rights of those who are different than them, while that figure is nearly double for adults older than 65 (67 percent). 

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Additionally, young adults are significantly less likely than adults over 65 to believe that Americans will accept the outcome of an election regardless of who wins (44 percent vs. 66 percent), that Americans will remain open to changing their views on a certain topic upon learning more (40 percent vs. 61 percent), that Americans will offer help to those in need when they can (53 percent vs. 80 percent), that American will solve problems by working together (52 percent vs. 71 percent), or that Americans will respect others (48 percent vs. 74 percent).

Despite expressing more skeptical beliefs overall, young people were also less likely than their elders to see trust-related issues as a major American problem, the study also finds.

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