So That's Why Brazilians Always Seem So Happy

Last Updated Jan 31, 2011 11:54 AM EST

Brazilians and Chinese trust big business and government. Americans are becoming more cynical, but the Russians always have been skeptics. At least that's one set of conclusions that can be drawn from the country-by-country data in this year's Edelman Trust Barometer.

The Barometer queries 5,075 people in 23 countries and asks them how much trust they have in various institutions and industries. The people surveyed are college-educated and in the top 25% of their income bracket for their age.

The so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) showed very high levels of trust overall. But those high levels, and the gains over last year, were mostly the product of big gains in trust in Brazil and China. Those gains were impressive enough that globally, trust in all four types of institutions covered by the survey showed a slight rise as well.

A love affair with business
In each of the BRIC countries except for Russia, business is widely trusted.
  • Some 81% of Brazilians said they trusted business, up from 62% last year
  • In India, 70% trust said they business, up from 67% last year
  • Some 61% of Chinese said business was trustworthy, almost even with the 62% who said so last year.
  • Only 41% of Russians say they trust business to do the right thing. That number is the lowest of the ten largest countries (ranked by Gross Domestic Product) surveyed, but Americans are not far behind, with only 46% saying they trust business to do what's right.
The perception of the Chinese and Brazilian governments made huge improvements in this year's survey.
  • In China, 88% of people say they trust the government, up 14 points.
  • In Brazil, 85% say they trust the government, up a whopping 46 points from last year.
The Chinese and Brazilians also placed the most trust in their media institutions.
  • In China, 80% of people trust the media, up from 63% last year.
  • In Brazil, 73% of people trust the media, from 54% last year.
  • That compares to a paltry 27% of Americans who trust the media and 22% of those in the U.K.
In emerging markets, people put about equal amounts of trust in nongovernmental organizations and businesses. In more developed markets, nongovernmental organizations are seen as more trustworthy.

The feeling is mutual
It's not only the residents of Brazil and China that are putting more faith in their institutions. Overall, foreigners are now putting more trust in companies based in the BRIC group as a whole than they were last year. (Americans buck the trend here, putting less trust in companies headquartered in Russia, India and China. In U.S. eyes, Brazil holds steady).
  • Mexicans have a particularly rosy view of companies based in Brazil, with 86% of Mexicans saying they trust companies based in Brazil. That's up 15 points from last year.
  • The United Arab Emirates is the biggest fan of companies based in Russia, India, and China, with at least 65% saying they trust companies based in these three countries. In the case of Russia, that's a gain of 32 percentage points; in China, it's a 21 point jump.
Are Americans justified in placing less trust in companies headquartered in BRIC countries? Or do Americans not want to admit how competitive those countries-and companies--have become?

RELATED: Photo courtesy of flickr user Tay
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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.

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