Industries Face Declines in Trust

February 12, 2020

Edelman General Public Trust Industry Sectors Feb2020 1One thing that all industries have in common is their need for the public’s trust. Unfortunately, this year’s Edelman’s Trust Barometer [pdf] shows that while the public still trusts business in general to do the right thing, that trust has declined across all examined industries.

In Edelman’s global survey of more than 34,000 adults across 28 global markets, Technology remains the most trusted industry despite dropping 4 percentage points year-over-year, with three-quarters (75%) now trusting the sector (based on a top-4 box from a 9-point scale). This decrease in trust comes after the Technology industry experienced its highest amount of public trust (78%) in 8 years just a year earlier. Past research places the fall in public trust in these companies squarely at the feet of technology companies misusing personal data.

Entertainment is another industry which saw trust dip by 4 percentage points, from 69% of the global general public in 2019 to 65% in 2020. And while Consumer Packaged Goods experienced a 3 percentage point decrease in trust (66% in 2019 to 63% in 2020), trust in Retail businesses to do the right thing was not hit nearly as hard (70% in 2019 to 69% in 2020). The Financial Services industry saw the same dip in trust as Retail; however, in the past 8 years, the Financial Services sector has seen its public trust grow by 12 percentage points.

Search Engines and Traditional Media Garner the Most Trust

In past years, search engines have enjoyed a higher level of trust than traditional media among sources of news or general information. However, traditional media experienced a surge of trust in 2018 (63%) and then another increase in 2019 (65%), matching that of search engines again. Although they remain on par again this year, both forms of media have lost some public trust, with both dropping to 61%.

For its part, traditional media looked to be recovering from a slump that started in 2015 and continued until 2018. This finding matches survey data from Gallup which found that in the US, trust in mass media, in general, slipped somewhat after recovering from a low in 2016.

Meanwhile, trust in social media as a source for general news and information has also dipped, to 40%, after looking like it was recovering in 2019 (43%). Owned media also experienced a similar drop, with trust declining from 49% in 2019 to 46% in 2020.

Other Highlights

  • More than 7 in 10 (72%) global respondents agree that companies should stop advertising with any media platform that fails to prevent the spread of fake news and false information. Some 64% of US respondents agreed with this practice.
  • The public is more likely to find a regular employee (54%) to be very/extremely credible than a CEO (47%) or financial industry analyst (47%).
  • Trust in family-owned (67%) and privately-owned (60%) businesses is higher than that of publicly-owned (58%) or state-owned (52%) businesses.
  • Past research has found that the majority of Americans say they are more likely to trust a purpose-driven company – and Edelman’s data indicates that 44% of global respondents trust businesses that are purpose-driven.

The full report can be accessed here.

About the Data: Results are based on an online survey conducted in Q4 2019 among 34,000+ adult respondents in 28 markets.

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