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The rise of a global class-driven trust divide

Adapted from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer; Chart: Axios Visuals

Around the world, trust in societal institutions among those with higher household incomes and levels of educations reached a record high in 2018, while trust in those same institutions among the mass population remained stagnant, according to Edelman's 2019 Global Trust Barometer Study.

Why it matters: This growing divide in societal trust between the "informed public," as Edelman calls it, and the rest of society is giving rise to the grassroots populist and protectionist movements that we're seeing in political elections.

By the numbers: While trust is increasing among the informed public, it remains stagnant among the mass population, leading to a 16 percentage point difference in trust between the two groups.

  • 65% of the informed public say they have trust in nongovernmental organizations, business, government and media, while only 49% of the mass population feels the same.
  • The phenomenon is global. Among 28 nations surveyed around the world, 18 markets have double-digit trust gaps between the informed pubic and the mass population, including Australia, China, the UAE, India and Canada.

The nations with particularly large trust gaps are often those that are experiencing populist movements or elections that are underscored by extreme political polarization over the past two years, like U.S., the U.K., Mexico, Germany and France.

Between the lines: The study shows that mass populations often feel more pessimistic about their futures, and less served by traditional institutions.

  • In nearly half of the markets surveyed around the world, majorities of the mass populations do not believe they will be better off in five years.
  • In nearly every nation surveyed, the informed public is more optimistic about its future.

The bottom line: Trust in institutions is rising among the wealthier and better educated classes around the world, but is not growing among everyone else.