The Trust Crisis

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The Trust Crisis

According to new research studies, people feel less trust for businesses, the media, the government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) than ever before.

The Edelman Trust Barometer is an annual survey by research firm Edelman Berland. The 2015 survey consisted of interviews with 27,000 people in the general population in 27 countries around the world, as well as 6,000 "informed publics" who are college-educated, with a household income in the top quartile for their age, and who follow public policy issues in the media several times per week.1

In previous years, a decrease in trust in one institution was typically offset by a gain in trust in another institution. For example, in the early 2000s, trust in business and government declined, while trust in NGOs went up.

But in the 2015 survey, trust was already low—or had gone down in every type of institution. Overall, informed publics in 21 of the 27 countries in the survey demonstrated trust levels of less than 60 percent, an all-time low.

Trust in government went up worldwide, fueled by increases in sixteen countries, including Russia, India, and Indonesia. But overall, government is still the least trusted institution, with informed publics in 19 of 27 countries expressing distrust.

NGOs are still the most trusted institution, but they showed the greatest decline in the 2015 survey.

Media also became less trustworthy in the latest survey, with fifteen countries showing less trust in traditional media like newspapers and television. Interestingly, online search engines are now more trusted sources for news and general information than traditional media for the informed public.

While the trust levels people feel toward the media, NGOs, and government are all of interest, what is particularly relevant to most Trends subscribers is how people perceive the trustworthiness of companies and their leaders.

Unfortunately, the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in business fell in 2015 for the first time since the end of the Great Recession. Trust levels went down in 16 of 27 countries, and now most countries are below the 50 percent level.

In each of the four elements that influence trust in business—industry sector, type of business, country of origin, and leadership—trust went up steadily after the Recession, and then declined this year...

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