NEW YORK: Trust in many individual U.S. institutions grew this year amid President-elect Donald Trump riding a wave of populism to the White House, according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer. The study examined institutions’ credibility in 28 countries
Fieldwork for the study took place in October and November of last year. More than 33,000 respondents were surveyed.
"Marketing and comms pros need to recognize there is an absolute expectation that business think beyond the immediacy of its singular need and put that singular need in a societal context," said Ben Boyd, Edelman’s president for practices and sectors and CEO of Edelman Canada and Latin America.
Americans’ trust in government, business, and NGOs rose, the study found. The only institution to not experience a boost in trust was the media, which saw virtually no change.
Government recorded the biggest boost in trust at 8%, bringing it just three points shy of a "neutral" rating at 47%. Business registered a 7% gain and closed out with a 58% rating, two percent short of a "trust" rating. NGOs experienced a 1% gain in trust and finished at a neutral 58% rating.
"Change drives optimism," Boyd said. "Bear in mind this survey was fielded in the most heightened period of debate of the presidential cycle. That notion of change was pervasive in the mindset of the respondent [regardless if they were] pro-Hillary or pro-Trump."
These gains were made as Trump publicly railed against institutions during the campaign (and continues to do so). At the same time, 57% said the system is failing.
Boyd noted the segmentation of those institutions also complicated Edelman’s findings. "If you ask a Breitbart reader if they trust Breitbart, they say yes. Same with progressive liberals and MSNBC," he explained. "There’s a difference in media as a monolith and my media of choice."
In the U.S., fears about immigration, globalization, eroding social values, and pace of change were more pronounced than normal. (Notably, that mix didn’t include corruption.)
Of 1,000 U.S. residents, 67% of Trump voters reported being fearful compared with 45% of Clinton voters. Forty-two percent of Trump voters said the system was failing compared to 34% of Clinton voters.
"When we overlay on that climate [of declining trust] and certain societal and economic fears, we see an ignition of populist activity, which was most pronounced in Western-style societies," Boyd said.
Meanwhile, leadership credibility eroded significantly. Trust in CEOs and government officials continued to decrease. However, 60% of respondents said their peers were extremely credible and reliable.
"The ‘distruster’ did not view [Trump] as a CEO [or] elected government official," Boyd said. "They experienced him as a straight-talking reformer. Or at least a significant plurality did."
Boyd added this opens up employee-engagement opportunities to leverage workforces as credible sources of information.
Globally, trust in media was at an all-time low (43%) in 17 countries, and government was the least trusted institution at 41%. Business (51%) saw trust diminish across 18 markets. The survey reported drop-offs in trust in NGOs across 21 countries, sometimes as high as 10 points.
More than half of respondents (53%) said the system failed them, calling it "unfair," according to the survey. That lack of faith cut across all social classes. Almost half (48%) of the top quarter in terms of income said they don’t trust the system.