The 2018 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust. People’s trust in business, government, NGOs and media remained largely unchanged from 2017 — 20 of 28 countries surveyed now lie in distruster territory, up one from last year. Yet dramatic shifts are taking place at the country level and within the institution of media.
The Polarization of Trust
The world is moving apart in trust. In previous years, country-level trust has moved largely in lockstep, but for the first time ever there is now a distinct split between extreme trust gainers and losers. No country saw steeper declines than the United States, with a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, China experienced a 27-point gain, more than any other country.
In Search of Truth
Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information being used as a weapon, and 59 percent say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization.
In this environment, media has become the least-trusted institution for the first time in Trust Barometer history — yet, at the same time, the credibility of journalists rose substantially. A number of factors are driving this paradox.
Confusion about the credibility of news is connected to the broad, wide definition of media that Trust Barometer respondents now hold. Some people consider platforms to be part of “the media” — including social media (48 percent) and search engines (25 percent) — alongside journalism (89 percent), which includes publishers and news organizations.
This year, trust in journalism jumped five points while trust in platforms dipped two points. In addition, the credibility of “a person like yourself” — often a source of news and information on social media — dipped to an all-time low in the study’s history. Most likely, the falloff of trust in social and search, and of the credibility of peer communication, are contributing to the overall decline of trust in media.
The Return of Experts
At the same time, voices of expertise are now regaining credibility. Journalists have risen 12 points, and CEOs recorded a seven-percentage point gain, since 2017. Technical experts, financial industry analysts, and successful entrepreneurs now register credibility levels of 50 percent or higher.