Social media experienced the sharpest decline in trust, losing eight points on last year, leaving only 37% of the public across the world saying they would trust this source for general news and information.
Traditional media now has a 57% trust score, according to Edelman’s 2022 global trust survey, down five points on last year, and search engines (which presumably means Google in much of the world) scored 59 percent, down three points.
Trust in business ‘owned media’, in effect meaning their own comms channels, scored 43, which was up one point on last year but still a long way behind traditional media.
The report, which surveyed more than 36,000 people in 28 markets globally, found that trust declined across all institutions compared to May 2020.
And trust levels across the board were down on last year in the western democracies, at only 44% in the UK and 43% in the US, which languish near the bottom of the global table. Trust levels are much higher in respondents from more autocratic states such as China and the UAE, closer to 80%.
Today 61% of survey respondents said they trusted businesses to do the right thing, which was flat on last year, followed by 59% trust in NGOs, 52% in government and 50% in media overall.
Perhaps most shockingly, concern over ‘fake news being used as a weapon’ has risen to an all-time high globally, up four points at 76%.
In Spain this worry over fake news was expressed by 84% of respondents – and 83% in Indonesia and Malaysia – but even in the UK it was up one point at 65% of respondents.
The 2022 Trust Barometer claims the most believable source of information today is ‘communications from “my employer”’ (65%). Government officials (42%) and journalists (46%) were once again the least trusted ‘societal leaders’, while ‘my coworkers’ (74%) and scientists (75%) are the most trusted.
Germany (65%) and Canada (65%) remained the most trusted ‘country brands’, followed by Japan (59%) and the UK (58%). India (36%) and China (34%) remain the least trusted internationally.
Interestingly, the trust gap in institutions has widened between high-income versus low-income citizens, with high-income individuals across the world more likely to trust their institutions by 15 points. This gap is 25% in the UK.
Edelman chief executive Richard Edelman attributed the trust disparities to “widening political chasms, increasing social fears and institutions' failure to make meaningful change in areas such as diversity, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and workforce reskilling.
“In none of the democracies do people believe they'll be better off in five years. And [most of those people] think they're going to lose their job, either because of the pandemic or because of automation. But the opportunity for businesses here as the most trusted institution is substantial.”
He added: “There’s an opportunity and an obligation for businesses to put societal issues at the centre of corporate strategy. There's this giant void left by the inability of the government. We might think, historically, that the government would [be trusted to handle societal issues] but they're not, so business has got to step in.”
David Bersoff, senior vice-president of global thought leadership at Edelman Data & Intelligence, noted, however, that business was “not necessarily the hero of the story” because of its questionable past, but that it is currently considered the “best [people have] to fight the battles that aren’t being well handled by the government”.
(This article first appeared on PRWeek.com)