NEWS20 January 2016

‘Trust gap’ forming between social demographics

News Public Sector Trends UK

UK – There was a significant upsurge in trust in business among the general population in the past year, although the gap between the trust levels among the mass population and the informed elite is growing, according to Edelman’s 2016 Trust Barometer.

The levels of trust that people have toward government, business, the media and NGOs depends on where they stand in the social hierarchy. There is a 17 percentage point gap between the trust that the informed public (university educated, higher earners, interest in news and politics) have in all institutions measured, compared with the rest of the population.

The wealthier, better-educated group reported trust levels of 57% ( 2015: 46%) in all institutions, while the rest of the population recorded a score of 40%.

Indeed there is an increasing disparity in outlook according to Edelman’s findings, with the poorest households predominantly pessimistic about their future, while it is the converse among the richest, with the majority optimistic about their future.

And as the trust in government stalls, people are turning to business and CEOs to demonstrate leadership beyond the confines of their corporate roles. CEO credibility has grown – 49% rated CEOs as extremely or very credible leaders (compared with 41% in 2015 ).

In particular, among both the informed public and the general public, business was trusted more than other institutions to keep pace with changing times.  Eighty per cent of the general population agreed that ‘a company can take specific action that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates’ (in 2015 it was 74%).

The ‘trust gap’ is demonstrated particularly in the issue of whether Britain should remain in the EU. Among the informed public, 61% want to stay and 26% to leave; for those in the poorest households, only 34% are ‘in’ supporters with 47% wanting to leave Europe.

Ed Williams, Edelman UK CEO, said: “To my mind, the gulf between the hopes and aspirations of the top and bottom of the social ladder should worry everyone in Britain. The expectations of the great are becoming fundamentally divorced from those of the least privileged.

"To close this trust gap, politicians and business leaders have to convince the people who are suffering most through austerity of their empathy and their good intent. If our society doesn’t win back the trust of those who feel discarded, we will only have ourselves to blame if false prophets fill that gap.”

The survey was conducted by Edelman Berland; it surveyed more than 33,000 respondents.