Who should you trust: a review of Edelman's 2014 Trust Barometer
Year after year, Edelman — the largest public relations' firm in the world — publishes its "trust barometer", a country-by-country appraisal of trust based on answers from more than 30,000 respondents online as well as in-depth interviews with qualified respondents.
Over the years, several "themes" have stood out as centrepieces of Edelman's worldwide trust evaluation: the rise in earned media over advertising (2003), a shift from authorities to peers (2005), the shift from governments to businesses as credible sources (2007), the rise of young influencers (2008), the crisis in leadership (2013). The 2014 report posits that "Business is To Lead the Debate for Change"; a bold if not slightly optimistic statement.
The key and most notable finding presented in Canada's 2014 TrustBarometer is the historic gap between business and government trust. Interestingly, both sectors had been very badly affected by the 2008 financial crisis, reaching historic lows in the 40%-range. Though the curve shows an increase for both over the last 5 years, government drops back in 2014 to its 2011 levels.
The current political conjecture of systematic strategic use of wedge politics by governments at all levels (federal, provincial, and even municipal, if you think of Rob Ford's re-election strategy) may explain this dual inclination by citizens and businesspeople.
That said, despite such distrust, Canadians still expect governments to protect them from businesses as customers. Two thirds find this to be the #1 job of government as it relates to economic affairs.
As far as media is concerned, Canada stands out as one of the countries well-above average in trust towards traditional media. In fact, while most countries trust search engines as much as the printed press, Canadians stand out with an 8% margin in favour of the latter. The quality of Canada's daily press, with papers like The Globe and Mail and LaPresse reaching far beyond its borders, may well explain this difference. In comparison, Canadians trust social media significantly less than the rest of the world.
Worthy of our interest also, the year-over-year variation in trust towards specific categories of individuals. While financial analysts gain some terrain, academics and technical experts, as well as government regulators, experience significant drops in their perceived trustworthiness.
Given the macro-findings of the study, business leaders and employees are unsurprisingly considered very trustworthy. As CEOs move towards positions as "Chief Engagement Officer", the Edelman report concludes that in order to maintain this level of trust performance, transparency, recognition of complexity, as well as engagement with all stakeholders are key in order to establish a successful and trustworthy business; findings that are corroborated with IBM's 2012 CEO Report and McKinsey's latest CEO Briefing.
The full Edelman TrustBarometer report is available on Slideshare.