What do people trust? Their families, friends or employers? The media that give them information? The government? Institutions, both profit and nonprofit?
Trust has become a major issue in America, or perhaps it always has been. “Fake news” has become a regular part of our vocabulary. Many people are suspicious of what they see on social media. Politicians lie, which is a hallmark of the recent rise in partisanship.
For its recently released Trust Barometer 2022, public relations firm Edelman looked at levels of trust in 28 countries based on a survey of over 36,000 people. Scores for government and media fell compared to the previous study. In part, this was because these institutions were viewed as “divisive.” Concern about “fake news” rose in almost every country.
People were asked if they trust their own government. Most democracies posted a drop from the last study. Totalitarian regimes did surprisingly well. The United States sat well down the list of nations, at 44%. Compared to the previous year, and the U.S. number fell by five points. Germany posted the largest loss at seven points, from 56% to 43%. Australia declined by six points to 53%.
The Edelman list of trust in government was topped by China at 83%, which was up 11 points. It was followed by the United Arab Emirates at 76%, up nine points. Among the reasons China did so well were high trust levels in business (84%), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (77%), government (91%) and media (81%). It bested the United States in each of these categories by wide margins.
The results of the survey imply that trust in government and media in China is the foundation of its high score. This holds true for the poor figures for the United States.
It would be naive to think that the study completely explains why China does so well and the United States does so poorly. The view of many Americans is that the Chinese government manipulates what its residents see and hear about the world. It appears that the central government’s efforts in that regard have been unusually successful.
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