Public trust in institutions sinks to a record low

Public trust in institutions is dropping precipitously, with trust in media hitting a record low last year, according to a global public opinion survey from Edelman PR released Sunday.

Just 43 percent of people said they trust the media, a drop from 48 last year, according this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer. Only trust in government was lower, at 41 percent. Trust in business and NGOs was at 51 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

Trust overall has declined

Trust has declined across all four institutions Edelman tracks.

2017 Edelman Trust Barometer

The numbers reflect a dire year in which fabricated stories have spread across social media while established news networks and the mainstream press have weathered accusations of bias and ineptitude.

“Media’s been categorized as part of the elite,” Richard Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman, said in an interview with CBS News. “The new means of communication is horizontal, peer-to-peer. And so as fake news or other sorts of stories get credence -- ‘Pope Francis endorsing Trump’ for instance -- those are more shared than mainstream news and that’s a real problem for the society.”

Fittingly, the Edelman barometer calls 2017 the year of “Trust In Crisis.”

The report, an annual survey, has for several years documented declining trust overall and a widening gap between the level of trust from the “informed public” -- highly educated, high-income people who report significant media consumption -- and the general population.

To compile the report, Edelman collected data from 33,000 people in 28 countries in October and November of last year. Respondents were asked to rate how much they trust particular institutions on a scale of one to nine, with one meaning no trust at all and nine meaning a great deal of trust. People whose response fell in the top four numbers were counted as trusting the institution.

While a few southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and India gained trust in the media, the majority of countries saw a loss in trust. The report showed Turkey as the country with the least trust in media, with a trust score of 25; the U.S. has a trust score of 47. The country with the highest trust in media was Indonesia, at 67.

Traditional media saw the steepest decline in trust, while people reported increased trust in search engines as a source for news.

While the decline in trust in business was not as sharp as that for media, it too continued to fall this year for most countries. Along with a loss in trust in business came a decline in CEO credibility. Only five countries -- India, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Indonesia -- said they found CEOs credible.

Perhaps most surprising is that even within the “informed public” — people who have benefitted from the current social and economic climate -- half of respondents said the system was not working.

But Edelman said he still believes that business has an opportunity to restore trust. He pointed to the responses from people who were uncertain if the system was working or not. Among that group, business was the most trusted of the four types of institutions.

“Business somehow is seen as the change agent, the one that could make the most out of innovation, move the most quickly,” Edelman said. “The hope is that business can fill a void left by government.”

CBS News’ Gilad Thaler contributed to this report.

  • Lulu Chiang

    Lulu Chiang is a senior producer for CBS News based in New York.