The Largest Ever Gap Between Trust in Business and Trust in Government

Last week, Drake Cooper was invited to hear Edelman Seattle report the findings of the 2014 Trust Barometer. This long-running survey, fielded by the world’s largest independent PR firm, is the premier source for understanding current consumer sentiment around “trust.” Every year the survey has one key takeaway and this year 33,000 respondents cited the widest ever gap between trust in business and trust in government, with the latter coming out at the least-trusted end.

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Given this sentiment, how large of a hill must Government climb to lead change? It’s steep. “Trust” is a forward-looking idea. It’s actionable. If people don’t trust you, achieving action is nearly impossible.

Why the low trust numbers? Government had a rough go of it last year. Between the NSA, the Fiscal Cliff, the Healthcare Debate, and more, there were a notable number of topics for people to be skeptical about.

So government might be wise to perhaps pay good attention to the way business today is evolving, particularly industries like technology—which is the most-trusted industry in the survey.

But this doesn’t mean that business has achieved full trust.

When respondents were asked if there’s “too much” regulation in business most people said “yes.” However, as soon as a specific industry was questioned about having too much regulation (such as Energy or Food & Beverage) the same respondents switched and reported that there’s “not enough regulation.”

The key takeaway: Once we really think about it, our opinions change and we don’t openly trust business as much.  Which is why over half of us see one of Government’s key roles as protecting consumers from business.


Another interesting finding in the report was that the people we look to for trust within an organization are changing. This year, respondents reported that “Academics and Experts” have our highest amount of trust while “CEOs” and “Government Officials” round out the bottom. But the fastest rising spokesperson in the Trust Barometer report is “a person like yourself.”

So as social media continues to enable even greater transparency, employees play a key role. And it’s most likely this access to hearing the voice of employees that may be helping an overall trust in business. After all, we like to do business with organizations who treat their people well.

So where do we go from here?

The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals 16 specific attributes that build trust. Conveniently, these can be rolled-up in to five key performance clusters: Engagement, Integrity, Purpose, Products & Services and Operations. Studying these attributes is how both government and business can achieve greater trust.

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