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Trust in government around the world hits a record high during coronavirus crisis, survey finds

Trust and the coronavirus response
Trust and the coronavirus response 05:27

Trust in government globally is at an all-time high amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey. Up 11 points since January, 65% of more than 13,000 respondents around the world said they trusted their government institutions, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer spring update

That percentage made government the most trusted institution for the first time, ahead of businesses, non-profits and the media,  global communications firm Edelman said. All of the institutions saw record high trust indexes.

"This is really like World War II. This is a different time to 2001 after 9/11, and 2008 after the Great Recession," Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, said on CBSN Tuesday. "This is a global pandemic, it is across industries, it is having an economic and a health effect, and therefore government becomes the last bastion of trust."

The survey, conducted between April 15 and April 23, sampled 1,200 people in 11 countries: Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. 

Of the U.S. respondents, 46% said they trusted the federal government, while 66% said they had trust in local or state government. The U.S. had the largest gap between trust in federal and local governments, followed by Japan and France.

According to Edelman, that gap was largely along party lines. Republican respondents showed a "very high" trust in the federal government, he said, while Democrats said they had more trust in state or local government. 

The unprecedented trust in government is not expected to last, Edelman said. "We believe this is actually a 'trust bubble' that won't last longer than Christmas because people will be disappointed when their jobs don't come back and when they run out of PPE funds," he said. "But for now, government for the first time is the most trusted institution in the world."

Globally, a large majority of respondents said they wanted government to lead in multiple areas of the pandemic response, including containing the pandemic, informing the public, getting their country back to normal and providing economic relief. 

"Faced with one of the biggest health and financial crises in history, people are turning to their governments for leadership and hope," Edelman said. "The speed and scale of the lockdowns, the brave performance of the public health services and the extent of public expenditure to support the private sector have shown government taking quick decisive action. This is a stunning turnaround for government which has always languished at or near the bottom of the trust hierarchy." 

Despite a slight increase in trust in businesses, half of respondents said they think businesses are doing poorly, mediocre or completely failing at putting people before profits during the crisis, according to the firm. 

Edelman said Tuesday that business has fallen behind government because of such widespread issues as poor treatment of workers and unreliable product availability. He said reopening efforts will present businesses with a major opportunity to regain lost trust: "Now's the time for business to pull up ahead, because the reopening is all down to business execution," he said.

"Brands should not be silent now, brands have to tell their communities how they're actually adapting their products to a less-affluent time," he said. "We now have 30 million Americans who are now unemployed or under-employed, and we have to have products that are priced appropriately, that are available in smaller sizes, and that suit people's budgets."

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