The very notion of “trust” appears to be in a tailspin, according to a variety of research over the last few years. Government, business, media—you name it, people are increasingly skeptical of it. Comms giant Edelman has explored and measured the trust crisis over the years and, although trust is still profoundly diminished around the world, it appears people are turning to more localized sources to take more control over where they place their trust.
The newly released 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year, with “my employer” emerging as the most trusted institution. Globally, “my employer” (75 percent) is significantly more trusted than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent), government (48 percent) and media (47 percent).
“The last decade has seen a loss of faith in traditional authority figures and institutions,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, in a news release. “More recently, people have lost confidence in the social platforms that fostered peer-to-peer trust. These forces have led people to shift their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.”
Trust gap expands around the globe
This shift to localized trust is unfolding against the backdrop of a return to the largest-ever trust gap (16 points) between the informed public (65 percent) and mass population (49 percent). The separation is driven by record-high spikes in trust among the informed public in developed markets, while mass population trust remains relatively flat. The trust gap is severe in developed nations (UK – 24 points; Canada – 20 points; France – 18 points; U.S. – 13 points) and has now moved into the developing world (India – 17 points; China – 12 points).
The trust disparity is also partly explained by gender. The gender trust gap is in the double digits in several developed markets, such as Germany (12 points) and the U.S. (11 points), mostly driven by women’s lower trust in business.
There’s a growing feeling of pessimism about the future
Only one-in-three mass population respondents in the developed world believes his or her family will be better off in the next five years. Among the mass population, just one-in-five believe the system is working for them and 70 percent desire change. And despite a full-employment economy, fear of job loss remains high among the general population, there is a two-and-half-to-one margin of respondents who say the pace of innovation is too fast over those who say it is too slow.
“Divergent levels of confidence between the mass population and informed public about the future signal a continued underlying rot in the structure of society,” said Stephen Kehoe, global chair of Reputation, in the release. “While not everyone is taking to the streets, the data shows why protests like the Gilet Jaunes in France, the women’s marches in India and walkouts by employees at some major tech companies could become more mainstream.”
Media trust rebounds to highest level ever
This fear has sparked a desire for change and factual information—prompting an unprecedented increase in media consumption and the sharing of news and information, up 22 points to 72 percent. Trust in traditional media (65 percent) and search (65 percent), are now at their highest historical ever, levels driven by large increases in developed markets. Conversely, trust in social media (43 percent) remained low, especially in several developed regions that show enormous trust gaps between traditional and social media (U.S./Canada, 31-point gap; Europe, 26-point gap).
CEOs are expected to lead the fight for change
More than three-quarters (76 percent) say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for government to impose it. And 73 percent believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates. Employees expect prospective employers to actively join them in advocating for social issues (67 percent). Companies that do are rewarded with greater commitment (83 percent), advocacy (78 percent) and loyalty (74 percent) from their employees.
“This is the emergence of the new contract between employee and employer, which we call Trust at Work,” said Edelman. “This contract is predicated on companies taking four specific actions: Lead on Change, establish an audacious goal that attracts socially-minded employees and make it a core business objective; Empower Employees, keep employees directly informed on the issues of the day and give them a voice on your channels; Start Locally, make a positive impact in the communities in which you operate; and CEO Leadership, CEOs must speak up directly on issues of the day. Smart companies will heed the call to build trust from the inside out with employees as the focal point.”
Other key findings include:
- Trust increased in 12 of 15 sectors, with technology (78 percent) remaining most trusted, followed by manufacturing (70 percent) and automotive (70 percent), which experienced the largest jump at seven points. Financial services, which saw a two-point increase to 57 percent, was once again the least-trusted globally.
- Companies headquartered in Switzerland (71 percent), Germany (71 percent), Canada(70 percent) and Japan (69 percent) are most trusted. The least-trusted country brands are Mexico (36 percent), India (40 percent), Brazil (40 percent) and China (41 percent).
- More women (+22 points) than men (+20 points) in the informed public became amplifiers of news and information this past year.
- 71 percent of employees believe it’s critically important for my CEO to respond to challenging times.