American Adults Report Declining Trust in Major Corporations

November 7, 2014

Harris-Americans-Trust-in-Major-Institutions-Nov2014Some 51% of American adults say they have less trust in major corporations than they did a few years ago, while just 8% have more trust, details Harris Interactive in recently-released survey results. Interestingly, skepticism is higher among older than younger adults: 56% of Baby Boomers (50-68) say they’re less trusting of major corporations now, compared to 46% of Millennials (18-37) who feel the same way.

The survey results are the latest to show that large corporations are failing to engender positive attitudes from the public. Late last year, for example, a separate Harris Interactive survey found that Americans were less likely than the year before to perceive large industries as being “generally honest and trustworthy.” In fact, perceptions of honesty fell in 18 of the 19 large industries measured, with tobacco the only one staying steady from the previous year ”“ but with just 3% of adults finding the industry trustworthy.

Separately, an Edelman survey conducted earlier this year revealed that family-owned businesses and SMBs continue to be more trusted than publicly-traded, privately-held companies and big business.

It’s not just major corporations that are seeing a decline in trust, per the latest Harris survey.  Indeed, 51% of adults surveyed trust health insurance companies less than they used to, 50% feel the same way about banks, and 42% trust insurance companies (such as home and auto) less. (One can guess the levels of mistrust for Congress!)

Not all trust in major institutions is going by the wayside, though. Almost one-third (31%) of respondents reported a greater degree of trust now in small business, versus only 9% trusting them less. And while trust in banks is eroding, Americans are placing more (25%) rather than less (18%) trust in credit unions.

When it comes to financial institutions, the leading influencer of trust is personal experience: roughly two-thirds say that personal experiences with their financial institution has a great deal of influence on their levels of trust. Other factors that greatly influence their trust include the quality of the institution’s products and services (56%), the quality of their customer care (56%) and the amount they charge in fees (56%).

About the Data: The Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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