Trust in Government, media and business drops to GFC levels claims study

The trust Australians place in major institutions has dropped to under 50 per cent, with business and the media particularly affected, according to Edelman Australia’s latest Trust Barometer.

Trust in big business has fallen according to a global survey released today.

Trust in big business has fallen according to a global survey released today.

The online survey claims business performed the worst of any institutional grouping; recording a score of 48 per cent, down from 59 per cent in 2014 – its worst result since 2008.

Trust in Government has also declined dramatically since the 2013 election, falling from 56 per cent to 49 per cent, a decline exceeded globally only in Malaysia and South Korea.

The barometer has been running for the last 15 years and in Australia for the last seven.

Edelman Australia CEO Tim Riches said major news events from the Ebola outbreak, chaos in Canberra and the rise IS all contributed to the lowered trust ratings.

“Our explanation (for the decline) at a local level is that 2014 was a pretty remarkable year, even if statisticians tell us it was not, I think for people it felt remarkable,” he said.

Riches said that how business was perceived and in turn trusted was about people’s core principles. This year was also the first time the barometer looked at trust in relation to innovation, finding that trust issues are holding back acceptance of technological advancements. A majority of Australian respondents believe innovation is happening too quickly (53 per cent) and that it is being driven by greed (72 per cent) and business growth imperatives (74 per cent), while only some (14 per cent) see it being done to make the world a better place. More than half (57 per cent) feel business is not doing enough testing of new developments and want stronger regulation (45 per cent).

“Its things like ‘do I believe that business is acting in a way that is consistent with my own interests? Why are they doing it?’ these are the questions people are asking,” Riches said.

“In a more profound way, companies have got to be better at showing how that change an innovation will make things better for people. At a personal level like making things easier or more productive or enjoyable, perhaps banking or entertainment for example.

“When technology is framed in those kinds of ways and acceptance is high then this is fundamentally the issue and how those innovation process work and allowing visibility of those processes, those are the key issues. And thats what the key findings are that it’s about transparency and visibility.”

Journalists and traditional media outlets also lost ground, with search engines now a more trusted news source than traditional media with a 62 per cent trust rating to 55 per cent. Owned and social media are less trusted at 33 per cent and 34 per cent respectively.

Riches said changes in technology and the news cycle had contributed to a different way of experiencing and consuming news that was reflective in the results.

“There’s two things here, one is it’s the ubiquity of mobile phones; by the far the easiest and most omnipresent way to be onto of what’s going on is through the phone, so it’s unsurprising that online searches are the most trusted channel. If I Google a news topic what will pop up is 8-10 headline that have been optimised for their click-baititude.

“The other thing I would say is because the provision of generic information in an up to date way is entirely comoditised now – I can get that fro any number of places,” he said.

For social networking platforms and online-only information sources in Australia, the most trusted author was a person’s own family and friends (70 per cent). This extends to companies too, where there is an existing relationship with a customer. In the case of a company creating its own content it was found to be a more trusted author (49 per cent) than a journalist (42 per cent) or even a celebrity (23 per cent) by customers of that particular company.

“In this continuing atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, we should expect to see behaviour and discourse that represents skepticism and a flight to the security of social groupings that provide people with a sense of order and care,” said Riches.

“The Trust Barometer shows us this kind of behaviour in the trust attributed to ‘a person like myself’ as a highly credible spokesperson and friends and family as the most trusted source of information authored on social media and online content sharing sites.”

 The survey is based on 20-minute online interviews of 27,000 general population respondents.

By Robert Burton-Bradley


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.