Poll: Young Americans Trust Facebook Less Than Police and the Supreme Court

April 26, 2021

A poll released Friday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that Facebook was the least trusted institution among young Americans.

The poll asked 2,500 people aged 18-29 how often they trusted major institutions to "do the right thing." Only 19 percent of respondents said they trusted Facebook to do the right thing all or most of the time, and 21 percent said the same about Twitter. Only Wall Street scored as poorly as the social media sites.

Other institutions polled surprisingly well. Nearly half of respondents said they trusted the U.S. military to do the right thing "all or most of the time," while 47 percent said the same of the Supreme Court. Forty-five percent of young people said they trusted the police to do the right thing all or most of the time.

Young Americans’ trust in the Supreme Court and the police cuts against typical media portrayals of the political climate. Efforts to pack the Court or abolish the police are generally presented as popular among young voters. According to the poll, only 22 percent of young people trust the media to do the right thing all or most of the time.

The poll highlights a growing sense of unease with social media platforms. Although young respondents tended to say that social media had a positive impact on their ability to "express their political voice," they also tended to say it had a negative impact on American democracy and their mental health.

Young people strongly favor greater regulation of speech online, with 68 percent of those polled saying social media platforms should remove misleading claims. A majority (52 percent) believed Twitter’s ban on former president Donald Trump was necessary.

The poll also documents striking levels of depression among young people. Fifty-one percent reported feeling "down, depressed, or hopeless" in the past few days, and 68 percent reported "feeling tired or having little energy." Twenty-eight percent said they had thought about hurting themselves in some way several times during the last two weeks.