Australians now distrust the government, business and the media

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Australians have given up on government, business, the media and other institutions as leaders of society.

Instead, they are looking to individuals in business, the chief executives and directors of boards, to lead and represent the interests of the people.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global survey across 28 countries, shows each of Australia’s four key institutions — government, business in general, the media and not for profits — are now officially classified as “distrusted” for the first time since 2013.

Australia’s Trust Index at 40% is just 4 percentage points higher than the least trusting country, Russia, on 36%.

Together with Singapore, Australia is one of just two nations to register consecutive falls across all four key institutions.

Trust in government fell to 35% from 37%, business to 45% from 48%, media to 31% from 32%, and NGOs to 48% from 52%.

Australia has the 2nd lowest trust in media globally, with only Turkey lower at 30%.

The government is broken

“It is deeply troubling that a majority of Australians believe their government is broken, however there is also an opportunity for businesses to stand up for the public on issues they believe are not being addressed,” says Steve Spurr, CEO of Edelman Australia.

The Trust Barometer shows a majority (56%) of Australians saying that government is the most broken institution.

“The decreasing trust in government is a result of another unsettled year for Australian politics,” says Spurr.

“Government uncertainty over energy supply, citizenship and the royal banking commission, in addition to continued infighting across the political spectrum has resulted in a nation that unfortunately, largely does not trust its government.”

However, the Trust Barometer revealed a strong resurgence in credibility of individual voices of authority.

CEO credibility recorded a 50% improvement, to 39% from 26%, while the credibility of a board of directors increased to 34% from 24%.

The Trust Barometer shows almost two-thirds of Australians (65%) believe CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than wait for government to impose it.

“With trust in institutions continuing to fall, and Australians now increasingly sceptical about the views of their peers, they are instead putting their faith in credible individuals,” Spurr says.

“The resurgence in credibility of CEOs, directors and experts is stark, however Australians are not just looking for these leaders to communicate and represent their organisation’s interests, but to advocate for, and lead on, broader societal issues.”

Other results from the barometer:

  • The credibility of journalists in Australia has risen 11 percentage points, to 28% from 17%, since 2017. The global average is 39%.
  • Industry analysts recorded a 9-percentage point rise to 48% from 39%. The global average is 50%. Analysts are more credible than CEOs, regulators, and board directors both in Australia and globally.
  • The credibility of a board of directors also recorded double-digit growth to 34% from 24%. The global average is 41%.
  • Worldwide, trust in a “person like yourself” dipped to an all-time low in the study’s history in Australia, this ranking dropped to 50% from 56% in Australia, and to 54% from 60% globally.
  • Trust in the financial services industry in Australia fell to 49% from 50%.
  • Financial Services is the second-least trusted industry in Australia, with only energy (39%) lower.
  • Trust in professional services dropped to 62% from 65% in Australia.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer is the 18th annual trust and credibility survey. It sampled more than 33,000 respondents.