Trust in government and CEOs slumps in the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer
January 24, 2012, LONDON – A picture of a deeply sceptical British public emerges from the latest annual Edelman Trust Barometer, published today. Trust in government and business is down on a year ago. Just 29 per cent of people expressed confidence that government is doing the right thing, with only slightly more people (38 per cent) trusting in business. Even NGOs were trusted by a mere 42 per cent of the general public.
As far as government is concerned, a huge gap has opened up between what people see as important and how well they think important tasks are being handled. While 71 per cent of people say it is important that the country’s financial affairs are managed effectively, only 12 per cent think this is happening – an “underperformance gap” of 59 points. 69 per cent believe it is important that the government communicates frequently and honestly. Only 11 per cent (58 point gap) think this is happening.
“There is a chasm between the public’s expectations of government and what they think is actually being delivered,” says Ed Williams, Edelman’s UK Chief Executive. “The public simply don’t believe politicians tell the truth, and the vast majority (68 per cent) thinks the country is on the wrong track.”
Business is confronted by an equal degree of scepticism. Reflecting the current debate about ‘responsible capitalism’, this year’s survey found that to be trusted, business needs to do more than succeed commercially. 72 per cent of respondents say companies should be involved in solving social and environmental problems. But CEOs face another hurdle in convincing the public that they deserve a hearing: they are the least credible public spokesperson for a business or organisation (only 30 per cent of respondents find them credible). More credible are academics or experts (by 73 per cent), a “person like yourself” (60 per cent), a technical expert (56 per cent), or a “regular employee” or “financial/industry analyst” (55 per cent).
“The public expects business to do more than just make money and create jobs. They expect business to improve the world it operates in, act ethically, treat employees well and help local communities,” Williams adds. “This is the difference between trusted and distrusted companies. This is the trust fulcrum for business.”
The Global Perspective
Globally, blame for the financial and political chaos of 2011 landed at the doorstep of government, as trust in that institution fell a record nine points to 43 per cent. In seventeen of the 25 countries surveyed, government is now trusted by less than half to do what is right. In twelve, it trails business, media, and non-governmental organizations as the least trusted institution. France, Spain, Brazil, China, Russia, and Japan, as well as six other countries, saw government trust drop by more than ten points. Government officials are now the least credible spokespeople, with only 29 per cent considering them credible. Nearly half of the general population—the first time the Barometer looked at this broader group—say they do not trust government leaders to tell the truth.
“Business is now better placed than government to lead the way out of the trust crisis,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman. “But the balance must change so that business is seen both as a force for good and an engine for profit.”
Although globally business experienced fewer and generally less severe declines in trust, it has its own hurdles to clear. Overall, trust in business fell from 56 per cent to 53 per cent, with countries like France and Germany, in the heart of the Eurozone economic crisis, experiencing double-digit decreases. Meanwhile, CEO credibility declined 12 points to 38 per cent, its biggest drop in nine years. In South Korea and Japan, it dropped by 34 and 43 points, respectively.
Although business is substantially more trusted than government, 49 per cent of global respondents believe government does not regulate business enough. Nearly one-third want government to protect them from irresponsible business practices and one-quarter want regulation that will ensure responsible corporate behavior. “The interventions people are asking government to take are changes business can step up and implement on its own,” said Richard Edelman.
In Japan, site of last March’s earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster, trust fell severely in three of the four institutions including government (down 26 points), media (12 points), and NGOs (21 points) . That loss of trust extended to five industry sectors, including energy (down 46 points), media (21 points), banks (20 points) and financial services (17 points).
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About the Edelman Trust Barometer
The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 12th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was produced by research firm StrategyOne and consisted of 20-minute online interviews conducted from October 10 – November 30, 2011. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer online survey sampled 25,000 general population respondents with an oversample of 5,600 informed publics in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) across 25 countries. The UK survey sampled 1,000 adults 18+ and 200 informed publics. All informed publics met the following criteria: college-educated; household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or watch business/news media at least several times a week; follow public policy issues in the news at least several times a week. For more information, visit http://www.edelman.com/trust or call 0203 047 2064.