28 January 2013

The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer published last week shows a general improvement in the level of trust people have in institutions compared with the previous survey, rising to 57% from 51% in 2012. However respondents don’t think so highly of the leaders of those institutions. Public trust in business, government and media leaders has fallen. There is “a very significant crisis of leadership” … as…”leaders are just not seen as leading.” Too many of us think our leaders “just can’t get around to telling them the truth.”

The survey released each year just ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, indicates that some gathering in Switzerland – like the heads of financial institutions – rated particularly poorly, no doubt because of facilitating market manipulation and money-laundering. While 50% of respondents trusted business in general to do what is right, only 18% trusted business leaders to tell the truth. Government was even worse, with 41% trusting government to do what’s right but only 13% believing what leaders said.

Leaders’ truthfulness score in the survey was described as “pretty pathetic.” “Trust is now being placed in an expert, such as an academic (69% considered an academic or expert as a credible spokesperson) or in a peer (61% looked to “a person like yourself”). That compares with 41% viewing CEOs as trustworthy.

The online survey involved 31,000 people in 26 countries. Australia is included but not New Zealand. The greatest improvement in public trust levels since the previous survey in the participating countries, were in Germany, France, United Kingdom and the United States. Trust levels in Australia slipped.