May 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trust in business falls behind government

Reproduced from Edelman Trust Barometer. Note: Margin of error ±2.8%. Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Edelman Trust Barometer. Note: Margin of error ±2.8%. Chart: Axios Visuals

Trust in government has now surpassed trust in business in countries around the world, according to new "Trust Barometer" data from Edelman, a global public relations firm.

Why it matters: That confidence has been plummeting for the past several years, but the coronavirus has changed that dynamic, as people fear that businesses don't have the authority or tools needed to properly tackle a pandemic.

Details: In 12 of the markets surveyed globally, trust in government has risen in eight countries since this time last year, according to the study.

  • China, India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Canada all report increases in trust, while South Korea, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. — all countries that have been severely impacted by the virus — have remained neutral, but haven't fallen.
  • Only people in France and Japan report having less trust in their government today than they did one year ago.
  • In many of the countries where trust in the national government lags — like the U.S., Japan and France — trust in local government is still strong.

In the U.S., the renewed trust in government overall is mostly bipartisan, but Republicans tend to trust the national government much more heavily than Democrats. Democrats, on the other hand, report having more trust in local government institutions.

The big picture: The crisis has reordered which types of institutions are considered trustworthy globally.

  • In January, most people surveyed around the world said NGOs were the most trusted institution, followed by business, then government, then media. Today, government is the most trusted, followed by NGOs, then business, then media.
  • According to the survey, government leaders are now more trusted than CEOs — a huge transition from the beginning of the year, when globally, people looked to CEOs to address issues like climate change and human rights.

What to watch: Data from Edelman suggests that business leaders can remain trustworthy if they focus on communicating routinely to their employees and customers about measures they are taking to prioritize health and safety over business outcomes.

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