Edelman: Trust in government, media down

The public's trust in businesses and NGOs remained stable, while trust in government and the media decreased slightly compared with the previous year, according to the 2014 edition of Edelman's Trust Barometer.

NEW YORK: The public's trust in businesses and NGOs remained stable, while trust in government and the media decreased slightly compared with the previous year, according to the 2014 edition of Edelman's Trust Barometer.

Trust in government decreased 4% globally to 44% compared with last year, while trust in media dropped 5% to 52%.

Ben Boyd, global head of Edelman's corporate practice, said the declining faith in media may come down to “sloppy reporting,” citing several outlets' inaccurate reports of an early arrest after the bombings at the Boston Marathon last April.

Meanwhile, trust in business remained the same at 58%, while trust in NGOs rose 1% to 64%, according to the report.

“Out of the countries surveyed, 20 saw a year-over-year increase in trust in NGOs,” said Boyd. “That speaks to the weakened trust in government, and the hope that some enterprise is keeping a watchful eye on the needs of the public, the planet, and the world.”

Since 2013, the biggest increases in trust occurred in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Australia, and Argentina; while the biggest decreases took place in Poland, the US, and Mexico.

More than 27,000 consumers in 27 countries, ages 25 to 64, responded to the report. Respondents have college educations and are in the top 25% of their countries in terms of household income.

Similar to last year, consumers in both emerging and developed markets around the world said they trust the technology sector more than any other industry; the total percentage of consumers who trust the tech sector increased from 77% to 79% in 2013.

“We are at an interesting point for tech – data privacy and security is an emerging issue, and the overlay of cloud [is also important],” said Boyd. “In some ways, these extremely emotionally charged challenges are very connected to the future of that industry's innovation and value creation.”

Trust in the automotive industry is second-highest, rising 1% to 70% of consumers who trust the sector compared with last year.

Banks remain the least-trusted sector, coming in at 51%, 1% higher than last year. Distrust of the financial services industry is the “new normal,” according to Boyd. He attributes this directly to the 2008 economic collapse and ongoing scandals such as JPMorgan Chase's $13 billion fine last year.

“Edelman recently had a dinner with a number of CEOs, and the head of one of the largest financial institutions in the world said it was ‘hard to fall off the floor.' That is an accurate statement,” said Boyd. “The financial services industry continues to be behaviorally challenged from a perception standpoint.”

Another key finding from the survey was that company employees are the most trusted sources when discussing engagement (50%), integrity (37%), products and services (32%), and operations (34%). In total, media spokespeople were the least trusted sources (16%).

While an academic or expert remains the most trusted third-party source (67%), and a technical expert at a company is the second-most trusted (66%), a “person like yourself” came in third (62%).

CEOs and government officials or regulators are the least trusted, coming in at 43% and 36%, respectively.

“It is extremely important that we counsel clients and CEOs to understand that, although their voices matter, what matters more is their willingness to engage and empower third parties to speak about the aims and ambitions of their enterprise in a way that is contextualized,” said Boyd. “The biggest takeaway from this report is the need for business to establish context; this isn't about closing the trust gap – this is about the gap creating the need for businesses to behave and engage differently.”

The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics, and Business is the theme of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, next week. Trust will be a major topic at the meeting, connecting with many of the report's findings, according to Boyd.

“In the [way] forward, businesses must remember that reputation is a rearview mirror exercise,” said Boyd. “The opportunity to drive not just shareholder value creation, but societal value creation is about trust building.”

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