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Around the world, people’s trust in key institutions – such as the media and NGOs – is modestly growing, but remains fairly low, according to the latest annual Edelman Trust Barometer [pdf]. The study indicates that actually, people globally are more likely to hold trust in their employer than in any other specific institution.

Globally, some three-quarters (75%) of the more than 30,000 people surveyed said they trusted their employer, a figure that climbs to 8 in 10 in the US. At a global level, this puts individual employers some 19 points ahead of business in general. This remains true even for those individuals who are otherwise disenfranchised.

This news is likely to come as a boon for brands investing in employee advocacy. An international survey by FleishmanHillard Global Intelligence from 2017 found that consumers are 3 times more likely to trust information about a company when it comes from an employee versus the company’s CEO.

Edelman’s more recent research concurs with this finding – a regular employee of a company is trusted by more than half (53%) of respondents when they’re forming an opinion about a company. And the most trusted source about a company overall is one if its technical experts, as cited by 68% of respondents.

While Trust in Business is Lacklustre, Technology as a Whole is Highly Trusted

Globally, some 56% of respondents are seen to trust business as an institution – a small lift on last year’s figure of 53%. But this figure rises when people are asked about specific sectors, and of the 15 business sectors listed, 12 of them have enjoyed an increase in trust from last year.

Technology was the most trusted sector, with 78% of respondents trusting companies in this sector to do what it is right. This is an important finding as individuals rely on technology more and more to conduct their daily lives, and may come as somewhat of a surprise given recent data privacy concerns. Still, a report by Intel confirms how deeply embedded technology is in people’s lives. More than half (53%) of the 1,000 adults surveyed relied heavily on technology to keep in touch with friends and family. Another 46% used technology to pay bills and keep up on personal accounts while more than one-third (35%) use technology to pursue hobbies and interests and 27% rely on it for shopping. The utility of technology may be engendering trust for the sector as a whole.

A notable increase in trust comes in the automotive sector. Seven in 10 trust businesses in this sector to do what is right, representing a 7% point year-over-year increase.

A Slight Majority Distrust The Media – But Less Than Last Year

Just under half (47%) of people globally reported that they trusted the media, but this figure has risen by 3% points in the last year. In the US, while the figure is broadly similar to the global picture, with 48% trusting the media as an institution, the rise is more significant at 6% points overall.

Trust in media has been called into question in recent years especially with the advent and continual use of the term ‘fake news.’ While online-only media saw a slight drop in trust (56% to 55%) in 2019, traditional media is one of the most trusted forms of general news and information at 65%. This is up 2 percentage points from the year before.

In the US, mass media is starting to see an increase in trust after seeing a steep decline in 2016. Gallup reports that 45% of US adults trust mass media a great deal or a fair amount.

Search engines are another highly trusted source of news and information with an increase in trust from the year before. This year 65% trust search engines, up from 61%.

It’s not too surprising that social media is the least trusted form of media. It may have gained three percentage points, from 40% to 43% from 2018 to 2019, but it still sits at the bottom of the list of media sources.

The full report from Edelman is available here.

About the Data: Data for this report was collected from an online survey in 27 marketers with a total of 33,000+ adult respondents (1,150 respondents per market).

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