Traditional media is no longer the most trusted source of news and information around the world, according to the latest annual Edelman Trust Barometer. The study surveyed 6,000 “informed publics” aged 25-64 across 27 markets, finding that online search engines are now the most trusted source of general news. Search also widened its lead over newspapers and TV as the first source for general information and the source used by most to confirm and validate news.
(“Informed publics” are college-educated respondents in the top 25% of household income per age group in each country. They report significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy.)
Informed publics were asked to rate their level of trust in various media sources when looking for general news and information. On a 9-point scale (where 9 represents the greatest amount of trust), 64% rated their trust in search engines a top-4 box score, with traditional media slightly behind at 62%. Only a minority (albeit an increasing one) trust social media (48%) and owned media (47%) for general news and information.
Overall, trust in the media as an institution declined a couple of points year-over-year to 51%. Indeed, respondents in only 12 of the 27 countries measured averaged a greater level of trust in the media than in the prior year. Moreover, 16 of the 27 countries (almost 60%) failed to record a majority of respondents trusting the media. One of those countries was the US, with just 43% rating their trust in the media a top-4 box, although that was a point higher than in last year’s study.
The annual study contains a host of intriguing data points, some of which are highlighted below.
- Friends and family (72%) and academic experts (70%) are the most trusted sources of information consumed by informed publics on social networking sites, content sharing sites, and online-only information sources. Informed publics are almost twice as likely to trust content created by companies they use (60%) as content from brands they don’t use (32%).
- Informed publics are most likely to trust technology (78%) and consumer electronics (75%) companies to “do what is right,” though trust in each industry declined by 2 points. The least trusted industries continue to be financial services (54%), banks (53%) and the media (51).
- Just 22% of informed publics from developed countries trust global companies that are headquartered in developing countries. By contrast, 77% of respondents in developing countries trust multinationals that are headquartered in developed countries.
- Informed publics in developed countries are far more likely to trust family-owned businesses (72%) than big business (45%). But in developing countries, big business (75%) is more trusted than family-owned businesses (69%).
- Academic or industry experts (70%) are the most credible spokespersons among informed publics, while CEOs (43%) and government officials or regulators (38%) are considered credible by the fewest.
- When it comes to information about a company’s engagement, integrity, and operations, employees are more trusted than CEOs. Academics are most trusted with information about a company’s products.
- Some 51% of informed publics believe that the pace of development and change in business and industry today is too fast, versus 19% who feel it is just right and 28% who find it to be too slow.
- Almost 7 in 10 informed publics trust electronic and mobile payments, though fewer (55%) trust cloud computing. Trust in electronic and mobile payments, electronic and personal health trackers, and cloud computing is much higher in developing than developed countries.
- Trust in industry sectors does not necessarily translate to trust in their ability to responsibly develop and release industry-specific innovations. Trust in innovation can be increased by making test results available publicly for review and by partnering with an academic institution.
- 8 in 10 informed publics have chosen to buy products and services from a company they trust during the past year, and 68% have recommended them to a friend or colleague.
About the Data: The online survey was carried out in 27 countries, among 33,000 respondents, with at least 1,000 adults surveyed per country. Among the informed public sample, there were 500 respondents in the US and China, and 200 in each other country.