A majority of Americans surveyed believe the US is in the midst of a 'cold' civil war

Samuel Corum/Getty ImagesPro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
  • Of the over 33,000 people surveyed by Edelman, over half believed government leaders and journalists are purposely misleading the public.
  • Three out of four people do not properly vet the information they find online, according to the report.
  • Over half the people surveyed put more faith in CEOs and companies than the government.
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Over half of Americans believe the US is in the midst of a cold civil war, according to a post-election flash poll from Edelman, the largest public relations firm in the world.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, published on Tuesday, found trust in the government and the media is at an all-time low, according to a survey conducted from Oct. 19 to Nov. 18. Of the over 33,000 people surveyed, over half believed government leaders and journalists are purposely misleading the public.

The pandemic, as well as increasing political tensions in the US between Trump and Biden supporters, has led people to question their trust in the government and media. According to the survey, the overabundance of conflicting information online has made it difficult for people to discern fact from fiction, especially when it comes to issues like politics or the COVID-19 vaccines.


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Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman, said the country is in an era of “information bankruptcy.”

“The result is a lack of quality information and increased divisiveness,” Edelman said in the press release. “…The violent storming of the US Capitol last week and the fact that only one-third of people are willing to get a Covid vaccine crystallize the dangers of misinformation.”

The infodemic has driven a lack of trust

Lack of trust in the government and media has been more apparent in 2020 than ever before. Last Wednesday, the US capitol found itself under siege from people who believed without evidence that the election had been rigged. “Murder the media” was carved into a capitol door during the riot.

Many of the year’s biggest stories happened online first, whether it was the Republican party members meeting online to plan the siege on the Capitol or individuals sharing inaccurate information regarding COVID-19 vaccines on platforms like Facebook.


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The Edelman survey found that 75% of people do not properly vet the information they gather online which causes the internet to act as an echo chamber, only reinforcing an individual’s opinion by repeating it back to them without exposure to other ideas or information.

More people have faith in CEOs than the government

With increasing distrust in the government and media, the Edelman survey shows many people have turned to corporate America for solutions to their problems. 61% of respondents put their trust in business organisations over the government.

During the pandemic, many companies have come into the spotlight by helping develop vaccines in record time and finding new ways to keep their businesses open or their staff employed.

Americans expect CEOs to hold themselves accountable for their company’s actions to the public. Two-thirds of the survey respondents said they expect CEOs to step in when the government can’t fix problems.


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“The events of this past year reinforced business’s responsibility to lead on societal issues such as upskilling workers and racial justice,” Edelman said. “It has also led to new expectations of business expanding its remit into unfamiliar areas, such as providing and safeguarding information.”

Following the Capitol Riots, people called for companies like Twitter, Amazon, and Facebook to take action. Companies were expected to monitor and vet sources on their sites, and many took to social media to push for them to ban platforms like Parler, and even remove the President’s accounts.

Ultimately, the survey finds the only way to regain the public’s trust is to guard the quality of information, something that online companies and platforms have struggled with for years.

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