Two years of pandemic have left deep scars around the world and led to a loss of trust in established institutions, some of which was considerable.

According to an international survey, more and more people are denying the ability of governments and the media in particular to solve the big problems.

Sven Astheimer

Responsible editor for corporate reporting.

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Around two-thirds of people believe they are being lied to by these groups, and one in two believe that they are contributing to the division of society.

On the other hand, more than eight out of ten respondents would like business executives to play a key role in shaping change.

Alongside non-governmental organisations, they are given the greatest confidence in solving social problems.

These are the main results of the Trust Barometer, which the communications consultancy Edelman presented on Tuesday.

The survey has been conducted for more than 20 years.

Around 36,000 participants in 28 countries were currently surveyed online.

Germany is slipping

Edelman calculates its Trust Index from the partial results. This shows that trust has eroded, especially in many western democracies. In Germany, the value fell by seven points to 46, which means that the country slipped from 14th to 20th place. The Netherlands also went down significantly. The United States is fourth from last, followed by South Korea, Japan and Russia at the bottom. China has the highest level of trust at 83 (plus 11), which has replaced India as the leader. The United Arab Emirates and Indonesia follow. However, it should be borne in mind that honest evaluation in online surveys is not guaranteed, especially in non-free systems. These results should therefore be treated with caution.

It seems plausible that the fear of loss is more pronounced in the richer industrialized countries, where respondents generally fear that they will be financially worse off in five years.

In addition, 85 percent fear losing their job, for example through digitization and automation.

It is also striking that the trust gap between high and low income groups has reached its highest level ever.

Managers in America have long felt the need to position themselves on social issues such as equality and sustainability.

doubts about the media

This trend seems to be gaining ground in other countries as well. Nearly two-thirds of Edelman's respondents said they expected such interference from their employer. Almost as high is the proportion of consumers who base their purchasing decisions for brands on values ​​and beliefs. Investors also make values ​​a decision criterion. Richard Edelman, founder of the agency, attributes a stabilizing effect to the economy. "Social leadership is now a core function of business."

The loss of political capabilities is particularly striking when compared to an interim survey in spring 2020, when many people believed that government, as the most trustworthy institution, was capable of strong pandemic management. However, severe interventions in freedom rights through lockdowns, curfews and vaccination requirements have drastically changed the picture: the index value fell by 13 points to just 52 percent.

The proportion of those who consider the media to be trustworthy has also fallen significantly.

With a value of 50, this institution is just classified as neutral.

However, the term summarizes a lot.

A closer look reveals that while classic media such as television, newspapers or radio stations, like search engines, have comparatively high values ​​despite losses, the already low reputation of social media has continued to decline.

In Germany and other democracies in particular, distrust of Facebook, Twitter and Co. is high, while in autocratic regimes such platforms are often one of the few options for communication beyond state control.

polarization in America

Company-owned media such as employee newspapers or information portals also enjoy only moderate trust, but were able to increase slightly. It is not only the sovereignty of interpretation in the pandemic that seems to have unsettled people around the world: 76 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned that fake news would be used as a weapon. A term that former US President Donald Trump made socially acceptable even before Corona. Not surprisingly, government officials and journalists came off the worst as social leaders in the survey, while their own employees and scientists received top marks with around three quarters agreeing; amazing given acrimonious debates surrounding the role of researchers in the pandemic, many of whom have been threatened.

The special evaluation for the USA also shows that there is a significant difference between Democrats and Republicans.

According to this, the approval ratings for supporters of the incumbent American President Joe Biden are over 50 percent for all institutions, while some Republicans only get half and seem to have already internally said goodbye to classic state institutions.

Edelman plans to present detailed results for Germany at the end of the month.

But there is already good news for Germany as a business location.

When asked about the strongest country brands, Germany scored the strongest with 65 percent agreement, together with Canada, followed by Japan (59) and Great Britain (58).

India (36) and China (34) are the least trusted.