Trust in Tech Industry Falls; People Skeptical of News Sources

February 3, 2021

Edelman Trust in Industry Sectors Feb2021At a time when public trust in institutions and business is not only desired but could be considered vital, it looks as though the public’s trust has faltered. Although this year’s Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows the public still trusts business in general to do the right thing – in fact it’s now the most trusted institution of all – industries across the board have seen trust decrease.

In Edelman’s global survey of more than 33,000 adults across 28 global markets, Technology still sits on the top of the list of most trusted industries even, despite a 7-point drop from 2020. Now, a little more than two-thirds (68%) trust the sector (based on a top-4 box from a 9-point scale). This is not the only decrease in trust the Technology industry has experienced in recent years — the most recent being last year when trust slipped 3 percentage points to 75% after hitting a high of 78% in 2019. However, this is the lowest level of public trust the sector has seen in the last 9 years. This decline in trust also comes at a time when more adults are turning to technology in order to work and communicate because of the pandemic.

The Automotive industry also saw trust fall by 7 percentage points, dropping from 67% in 2020 to a 9-year-low of 60% this year. The Entertainment industry also hit an all-time low, at 59% (down from 65% in 2020), while Consumer Packaged Goods experienced a 2 percentage point drop (62% in 2020 to 60% in 2021). The Healthcare industry came out somewhat unscathed by the general decline in trust. It saw trust drop 1 percentage point while garnering the trust of 66% of the global population.

That said, people tend to trust business more than other institutions, with some 61% of individuals across the globe expressing their trust. This is compared to the fewer who trust NGOs (57%), government (52%) or media (51%). Indeed, business was the only institution that respondents were able to describe as both competent and ethical.

Trust in Search Engines and Media Plummets

Although search engines and traditional media reserved bragging rights as being the two sources of information trusted most for news and information, these two sources were not spared the general drop in trust seen this year. In fact, Edelman reports record lows across all 4 information sources examined.

Trust in search engines dropped 6 percentage points over 2020 to 56%, while trust in traditional media, which had seen a resurgence in recent years, fell 8 percentage points (61% in 2020 to 53% in 2021). While always garnering a lower level of trust than search engines and media, owned media (41%) and social media (35%) each suffered a 5 percentage point drop over 2020.

Other Highlights

  • Adults are more likely to trust communications from their employer (61%) than the national government (58%), media (57%) or advertising (46%);
  • More rate academic experts (57%) and people like themselves (53%) as very/extremely credible than those who feel the same about CEOs (40%), government officials (38%) or journalists (35%);
  • About two-thirds (68%) of respondents believe CEOs should step in when the government does not fix societal problems, while almost 9 in 10 (86%) expect CEOs to speak out about societal challenges such as the pandemic’s impact, job automation, and societal issues; and
  • About 2 in 3 (68% of) consumers agree that they have the power to force corporations to change.

The full report can be accessed here.

About the Data: Results are based on an online survey conducted in Q4 2020 among 33,000+ adult respondents in 28 markets.

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