“This is the biggest drop we've ever seen,” said Laurence Evans, CEO of StrategyOne, which conducted the study. The results are lower than those measured in the days following Enron, the dot-com bust, and the 9/11 attacks. In the US, 77% trust corporations less this year. Internationally, trust has fallen 62%.
The study also found that 65% of respondents globally and 61% of respondents in the US are in favor of more government control to solve problems like the credit crisis, global warming, and energy costs.
“Business has to work in partnership with all their stakeholders,” said Evans, discussing the implications of the Barometer's findings. “People are looking to business, government, and the public to work together in transparent communications to acknowledge the problem and fix it. No industry is immune is the real message for this year.”
The plummet in trust levels is also having a severe impact on communications. Sixty percent of respondents said they need to hear information three to five times before believing it. And only 17% of respondents in the US trust information from a CEO.
“The challenge for business is they need to communicate credible actions through multiple channels using multiple sources multiple times,” Evans adds. “We're in a second-opinion society now.”
The Barometer also found citizens in other countries experienced a steep drop in trust in business, such as the UK and France (both down 67%), and Germany (down 73%). Emerging economies like China and Brazil actually saw increases in trust scores.
“While trust in those economies is still relatively high, there's an opportunity for a global trust issue and those countries shouldn't think they're spared,” Evans said.
Information for the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer was gathered via 30-minute telephone interviews with respondents around the world from November 4 through December 14, 2008. The survey sampled 4,475 informed publics in two age groups: 25 to 34 and 35 to 64. Informed publics were defined as those who are college-educated, have a household income in the top quartile for their country, and consume business media, news media, and information about public policy several times per week.