Trust falls in the US despite economic recovery

NEW YORK: Americans reported less trust in business, government, media, and NGOs, while trust increased across each of those sectors globally, according to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer.

NEW YORK: Americans reported less trust in business, government, media, and NGOs, while trust increased across each of those sectors globally, according to the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer.

The annual barometer surveyed 5,075 adults, aged 25 to 64 years old, in 23 countries in early January. Respondents have college educations and household incomes in the top 25% of their age group in their country.

This year's survey found that trust in business, government, media, and NGOs in the US fell eight points to 46%, compared to 54% in 2010. Globally, trust in each of the four sectors grew, with trust in government showing the highest gain at five points to 52%. 

“Wall Street is booming. Corporate earnings are up, but unemployment remains at nine-and-a-half percent, which is incredibly high,” said Matt Harrington, US president and CEO of Edelman. “The absence of movement on that data alone is a cause of a great deal of stress.”

He also cited the corporate crises of 2010, including the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Goldman Sachs' $550 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as factors of decreasing trust in the US.

Global trust in CEOs as credible spokespeople showed marked improvement over the barometer's results in recent years.

“Many CEOs are continuing to benefit from the transparency and communications that they engaged in during the recession,” said Harrington. “CEOs are understanding that one of their key roles going forward is not just to manage the business, but it's to communicate how they manage the business.”

In the US, the role of the CEO as a credible spokesperson rose 15 points to 34%, compared to 19% in 2009. Half of global respondents cited the CEO as a credible spokesperson, compared to the 31% who said the same in 2009.

Trust in other official spokespeople, such as academics, analysts, employees, and government officials, also rose.

The barometer's “person like yourself” spokesperson was the only listed spokesperson to show a decrease in credibility, a factor that Harrington said shows that the public is less reliant on less trustworthy information.

While the banking industry reported its lowest levels of trust, falling below the insurance industry, the auto industry showed increased trust. Nearly 70% of respondents said they placed trust in the auto industry to “do what is right.” In the last year, Ford reported a 19% increase in year-over-year sales in the US and General Motors conducted what many say was a successful IPO.

“One of the rays of light was the recovery of trust in the automotive industry,” said Harrington. “It shows that trust can return.”

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