NEW YORK: Trust in American business appears to be on the mend among the country's so-called opinion leaders following a spate of high-profile corporate scandals, according to Edelman's annual Trust Barometer Survey. The survey also revealed that the image of US companies overseas may be negatively affected by a mistrust of the Bush administration by foreign consumers.
Fifty-one percent of US opinion leaders - college-educated individuals with incomes of more than $75,000 - now trust business "to do what is right," up from 41% in June 2002 and 48% in January 2003. European opinion leaders' confidence in business in general rose to 40%, up from 35% in January 2003.
"Despite the corporate scandals of the last few years, the image of business is proving resilient with a stronger global economy and tougher government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the US," said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. "I also think the strength of the financial markets has done a lot to boost people's confidence."
The survey also uncovered that the vast majority of opinion leaders outside the US are wary of the Bush administration after it launched a preemptive war against Iraq in 2003. Twelve percent of respondents in Germany, 13% in France, 20% in Brazil, and 21% in the UK trust the Bush administration to "do what is right."
In Europe, the negative feelings about the Bush administration's foreign policy appears to have spilled over into consumers' views of American firms. In France, 64% are less likely to purchase US products, and 59% are less likely to purchase British products due to the current administrations, while in Germany those numbers were even higher - 66% and 65%, respectively.
Nevertheless, opinion leaders in the US and abroad expressed a renewed trust in their own domestic governments.
Forty-eight percent of US respondents expressed trust in their government, up from 39% in January 2003. In Europe, that figure is 31%, up from 25% in January 2003. According to respondents, in most markets the most credible sources of information about companies are articles in business magazines, friends and family, colleagues, and news weeklies, while the least credible are advertising and "information conveyed by CEOs or CFOs."
This finding seemed to underscore the continued lack of trust of senior corporate management teams. The credibility of company CEOs was only at 20% in the US, which actually represents a jump from 11% in January 2003.
The survey was conducted through telephone interviews among 1,200 opinion leaders - 400 in the US, 450 in Europe (150 each in the UK, France, and Germany), 200 in China, and 150 in Brazil - between December 2003 and January 2004.