Trust in the institutions of government, business, media and NGOs has increased across the globe, reports Edelman in its latest annual Trust Barometer report. However, trust in these institutions lags among general population respondents, instead driven by the so-called “Informed Public” – college-educated 25-64-year-olds in the top income quartile who have significant media consumption and engagement in business news.
Edelman notes that this “trust inequality” has widened in recent years, reaching a 12-point gap this year when measuring average trust in the four institutions of government, business, media and NGOs. The trust gap has widened by 3 percentage points since 2012, with the disparity accelerating even more significantly (by 8% points) in the US.
Nevertheless, the general population’s trust in business did increase over the 27 countries surveyed, up from 48% trust last year to 53% this year (flat at 51% in the US). Looking specifically at various sectors, the study indicates that general online population respondents are most likely to trust businesses in the technology sector to do what is right, with 74% rating technology businesses a top-4 box for trust (on a 9-point scale). That aligns with separate research which finds that:
- The technology industry is one of the best-perceived institutions for positive impact in the US, particularly among Millennials; and that
- The technology sector has the best reputation of any industry in the US.
Beyond the tech industry, trust is highest for the food & beverage industry (64%, up 1 point from 2012), CPG (61%, up 4 points); telecom (60%, up 2 points) and automotive (60%, down 2 points). Interestingly, the energy (+ 5 points to 58%) and financial services (+8 points to 51%) sectors have seen the biggest improvements over the past 5 years. The Gallup survey cited above finds that the energy sector has seen the biggest improvement in positive perception in the US since 2010.
Turning to the media landscape, the study indicates that search engines continue to outpace traditional media when it comes to trust in general news and information. Last year, traditional media ceded the top spot to search engines among Informed Publics, and the data shows that that was true also for the general population. The gap is even higher among Millennials, 66% of whom trust search engines (versus 63% of the 18+ population overall) against 58% trusting traditional media (even with the general population overall). In fact, Millennials are as likely to trust online-only media as they are to trust traditional media.
Finally, when it comes to spokespeople, technical experts are trusted the most by the general population, according to the study. Specifically, respondents were asked to rate the credibility of information they heard about a company when coming from a range of different spokespeople. The top 3 were:
- Technical expert (67%, up from 63% last year);
- Academic expert (64%, flat); and
- A person like yourself (63%, up from 57% last year).
The biggest increase in credibility came for CEOs, who were deemed credible by 49% of respondents this year, up from 41% last year. In order to build trust in CEOs, respondents indicated that the following types of information are important:
- Their personal values (79%);
- The obstacles they have overcome (70%);
- Their personal success story (65%); and
- Their education and how it shaped them (62%).
About the Data: The 2016 Edelman Global Trust Barometer was fielded among 32,200 general population respondents across 28 countries, 6,200 of whom qualified as “Informed Public.” The markets covered were: China; India; UAE; Mexico; Singapore; Indonesia; US; Australia; Canada; Netherlands; Colombia; Brazil; Italy; Malaysia; UK; France; South Africa; Argentina; Spain; Hong Kong; Germany; South Korea; Ireland; Turkey; Sweden; Poland; Russia; and Japan. There were 1,150 respondents (18+) per country.