Trust in institutions up slightly from 2012: Edelman

NEW YORK: The public's trust in businesses, government, NGOs, and the media increased slightly compared with the previous year, according to the 2013 edition of Edelman's Trust Barometer report.

NEW YORK: The public's trust in businesses, government, NGOs, and the media increased slightly compared with the previous year, according to the 2013 edition of Edelman's Trust Barometer report.

Trust in government increased 5% globally to 48% compared with last year, while trust in businesses went up 3% to 58%. Trust in the media jumped 5% to 57%, while trust in NGOs rose 5% to 63%, according to the report.

“You might suggest that last year, given the global economic climate and the lack of leadership and action by government, the global context was one of bleak outlook and depressed sentiment around trust,” said Ben Boyd, global head of Edelman's corporate practice.

He added that trust went up the most in Germany, France, the UK, and the US since 2012, but he cautioned not to read too much into the improvements.

“While there is an increase in trust, it's weak from an intensity standpoint,” Boyd said. 

More than 31,000 consumers in 26 countries, ages 25 to 64, responded to the report. Respondents have college educations and are in the top 25% of their countries in terms of household income.

Similar to last year, consumers in both emerging and developed markets around the world trust the technology sector more than any other industry, though the total percentage of consumers who trust the tech sector dropped from 79% last year to 77% in 2013. Trust in the automotive industry is second-highest, rising 3% to 69% of consumers who trust the sector compared with last year.

Boyd said technology is a trusted industry because it is a “solver of problems and an anticipator,” but the sector still has a few problems, especially with the recent privacy policy issues on social media networks.

“As more and more data is shared, higher and higher expectations are going to naturally fall under those who aggregate, collect, and use that data, so we think the impact of data mismanagement or privacy violations is a matter of when and certainly a watch-out that calls for consideration in the technology space,” he added.

Banks and financial services remain the least trusted institutions, both coming in at 50%, but Boyd pointed out that trust in US banking has doubled since 2011 among informed consumers. He added that 2012 was a year full of scandals for the financial sector, such as money laundering and rogue trading incidents, so the industry “inflicted much of its own wounds.”

Another key finding from the survey was the “solidification of a person like me” as a credible spokesperson and trusted source, said Boyd. While an academic or expert remains the most trusted third-party source (69%), and a technical expert at a company is the second-most trusted (67%), a “person like yourself” came in third at 61%.

CEOs and government officials or regulators are the least trusted, coming in at 43% and 36%, respectively. Boyd said an important finding is that 27% of respondents said they do not trust businesses because of corruption and fraud, and another 27% said they do not trust them because of wrong incentives and business decisions. When it comes to government, 33% don't trust it due to corruption and fraud, and 31% don't trust the institution due to poor performance and incompetence.

Boyd said the biggest takeaway for businesses is to close the gap between consumers' expectations and company performances. For example, 63% of respondents said it's important that businesses offer high-quality products or services, but only 41% think companies are doing that well.

“The thoughtful companies out there who want to build trust among stakeholders need to strategically and with rigor think about how to close that gap,” he explained.

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