Jan 18, 2022 - Economy

Distrust in political, media and business leaders sweeps the globe

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Trust in government is collapsing, especially in democracies, according to a new global survey.

Why it matters: People also don't think media or business leaders are telling them the truth, and this suspicion of multiple societal institutions is pushing people into smaller, more insular circles of trust.

Details: Government leaders and journalists are considered the least trustworthy societal leaders, according to Edelman's new 2022 global "Trust Barometer," a survey of 35,000 respondents across 28 countries.

  • A majority of people globally believe journalists (67%), government leaders (66%) and business executives (63%) are "purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations."
  • Around the world, people fear the media is becoming more sensational for commercial gain and that government leaders continue to exploit divisions for political gain.

Between the lines: People who live in democracies are quickly losing trust in those democracies, while trust in authoritarian regimes — in China, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example — is increasing among the people who live under them.

  • As trust in democratic institutions wanes, there are also growing doubts about capitalism. Developed democracies specifically lack economic optimism, per the survey.
  • A trust gap has also increased between wealthy and low-income populations.

What to watch: As people become more skeptical of institutions, they are increasingly leaning into closer circles of trust.

  • Throughout the pandemic, survey respondents say trust in people from other countries and people who live in other states, provinces, or regions has gone down, while trust in neighbors and coworkers has increased.
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