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Nate Silver: "The military is now the most trusted major institution in the country"

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While listening to an excellent interview at with Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings on his new book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan, I was sent a Nate Silver link by Twitter-friend Mtl4u2. It's a great great find, especially in the context of the Majority Report discussion.

Some background: Hastings spoke in the interview about the conflict between the top military — especially the "special forces" military represented by Gen. McChrystal and Gen. Patraeus — and the Obama administration. At one point, for example, McChrystal spoke insultingly about VP Joe Biden in a meeting with his own staff, his military subordinates.

The blurb for the book addresses this, and reads in part (my emphasis and paragraphing):

General Stanley McChrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large. He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a "rock star." During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McChrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone.

For days, Hastings looked on as McChrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership. When Hastings's piece appeared a few months later, it set off a political firestorm: McChrystal was ordered to Washington, where he was fired unceremoniously.
This raises a lot of Truman & MacArthur questions, and makes you wonder what's going on in the country that makes people like McChrystal think this is OK.

That's where Nate Silver comes in. From his blog at
The longstanding project called the General Social Survey, which has polled Americans about their feelings on a variety of political and social issues for more than 35 years, just recently came out with their preliminary 2008 data[.] ... One of my favorite sets of questions on the GSS is one that asks Americans about their degree of confidence in various social institutions...
Silver then presents this chart (click to open in a new tab).

The dark blue bar is 1976; the lighter blue is 2000; the lightest is 2008. For each institution, top-to-bottom is earliest-to-latest.

Fascinating, yes? Silver comments:
The only major institution to have gained a statistically significant about [sic] of trust since 2000 is the military, which is now the most trusted major institution in the country.
Not sure I like that, especially in light of this:

Side note — If you like what you read here and you'd like to make comments or suggestions, I'm fairly active on Twitter, especially during the "morning paper" part of the day (Pacific Time, of course). Feel free to follow me and make suggestions. They are always welcome.


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