27 January 2012

The Edelman Trust Barometer was released this week. Based on international responses in 25 countries, this is Edelman’s 12th annual trust and credibility survey. New Zealand is not included – although Australia is. The survey measures aspects of public opinion relating to media, government, NGOs and business.

It doesn’t make good reading for government agencies, with public confidence showing a dramatic fall. Government is now the least trusted institution. While trust levels in business dropped 6% and by 5% in NGOs, levels of trust and confidence in government on average dropped 11% from the 10 year high in 2011. NGOs remain the most trusted of the institutions. The only category where there was an improved rating in 2012 was of the media as perceived by the informed public – but not by the general public.

Last year Banks and Financial Services were the least trusted industry groups and their ratings have declined further in the latest survey (47% and 45% respectively). The Japanese and Koreans now have as little trust in their banks as do Europeans.Technology remains the most favoured industry (79%)

One feature of the results is to divide respondents into “trusters”, “distrusters” and those who are neutral. Interestingly the neutral grouping has increased, with less polarisation. People in China are great trusters (76%) and those in Russia the least trusting (32%). Australians are neutral (52%) but the British are distrusters (41%). The Irish who on the 2011 barometer were assessed as even less trusting than Russians have moved up 15% to the same level as the British.

Whether this reflects public opinion in New Zealand is uncertain. The annual UMR Mood of the Nation survey results usually published in late December or early January have not yet found their way onto the web. They provide a useful comparison of changing opinion.