30 January 2012
The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer published last week (see blog post “Does a trust barometer just measure hot air? ) disclosed a substantial drop in public confidence in government in the 25 countries that contribute to the barometer. Edelman comments that a  drop in confidence to 38% shows that citizens around the world don’t trust governments to resolve the political and economic troubles they face. In half the countries the drop in confidence was more than 10%. This included Japan and China, where there is usually a higher than average confidence in government.
In only eight countries did more than 50% of the population have confidence that the government will “do what’s right”. Almost half of survey respondents said that they didn’t trust their government to tell the truth.
People in Japan are shown to have lost trust since the earthquake and tsunami – perhaps unsurprisingly having regard to what is now known about the crisis at the nuclear power reactor – with Brazil being the only surveyed country where there was an even more dramatic loss of trust in government. Substantial falls in confidence in Germany, Spain and France are probably euro related, but governments in Indonesia, South Korea and Argentina lost the confidence of their citizens at a similar rate.
The barometer measures trust in a number of job classifications. In the most dramatic drop in the history of the barometer, trust in government officials or regulators has fallen from 43% to 29%. The only comparable fall is trust in chief executive officers where the decline was 12%. Interestingly people show growing confidence in “a person like yourself”, increasing 22% to 65%.
Of the 25 countries surveyed, only in Singapore do people believe that government leaders can be more trusted to tell the truth than business leaders.
In a striking disconnect, the barometer measures the difference between the importance people place on aspects of government and their assessment of the government’s practice. Although 67% expected government to listen to peoples’ needs and feedback, only 12% believed the government did so. Whereas 66% expected the government to have open and transparent processes, only 16% thought that was the case. And while 65% expected the government to communicate frequently and honestly, again only 16% thought that happened.
These results are disturbing from the perspective of officials committed to serving their communities. The only consolation that can be taken is that New Zealand data is not included in the barometer.