he 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global survey of 27,000 people in 27 countries, found that trust in government has fallen to its lowest levels, and the gap between business and government trust has never been wider, at 14 points globally, and 21 points in the US.
The tech industry maintains its lead as the most trusted at 79% but there are problems ahead. The survey shows strong support for businesses that pay their taxes, and that are able to advocate for social missions — in addition to making money.
Media and banking industries have the lowest levels of trust at 51%. Search engines and traditional media have about the same level of trust at 63% and 65%, but social media and owned media are in last place at 43% and 44% respectively.
I caught up with Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, earlier this week. He’s very concerned with the low trust in government, and the huge gap between business and government — which is unprecedented in the 14 years of the survey.
I pay close attention to the Edelman Trust barometer because trust is the lifeblood of the media industry and as the sector continues to struggle with its business model transition, the continued loss of trust in media is a concern because it shows that the transition is not going well.
This means businesses can’t use government or the media as effectively as before, in promoting their interests, or improving their trust ranking.
Edelman says that business needs to change from being a government “insider” to an outsider role. He calls for actively engaging in the bully pulpit of public discourse and taking the lead in advocating for reforms
The CEO needs to become the “Chief Engagement Officer.”
However, trust in CEOs is just 43% compared with academics 67%, and in peers, 62%. Employees have higher levels of trust than CEOs.
Although trust in government is low, people want it to protect consumers from business, and they don’t trust industries to self-regulate.
The tech industry continues to lead in trust but this could change quickly. There are worrying signs that its teflon-coating could be wearing thin, especially as hacker attacks, and complicity with NSA spying operations continue to be revealed.
Tech companies are also losing ground in closely watched places such as San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where they are gaining a reputation as bad neighbors.
Representation without taxation…
Also, as tech companies increase their lobbying efforts in Washington, while at the same time using offshore subsidiaries to slash their tax bills, their efforts for increased representation through less taxation strikes at the very foundation of the US nation.
The increased lobbying efforts over the past few years marks many large tech companies as government insiders and they risk being associated with the same lack of trust in government.
Edelman warns that trust in the tech industry could fall as low as the financial services industry in 2008.
Tech companies should study this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer because it contains all the “Big Data” they need for developing a manifesto of actions needed to ensure a high level of trust in the future. Otherwise, they risk losing leadership to highly trusted “activist consumers.”
They’ll need substantial help in taking the right steps.
[Edelman was a sponsor of Silicon Valley Watcher in 2006.]