Australians are generally a more trusting lot than other nationalities, according to the global Edelman Trust Barometer out today.
This is led by a 30 per cent jump in people trusting government while the rest of the world looks down.
But when it comes to politicians, the leaders of government, Australians just can’t bring themselves to believe they tell the truth.
The Edelman Trust Barometer, which studies 27,000 people in 27 countries each year, shows Australia is moving against trend with a rebound in trust.
Globally, trust in government has fallen to an historic low of 44 per cent from 48 per cent.
But in Australia increased trust in the institution of government is up 13 percentage points to 56 per cent.
However, three in five Australians (60 per cent) do not trust government leaders to tell the truth regardless of how complex or unpopular it is.
And two in five Australians (40 per cent) do not trust government leaders to make ethical and moral decisions.
Michelle Hutton, chief executive officer for Edelman Australia, says that prime minister Tony Abbott was rebuilding trust and business confidence when he announced Australia was “open for business”.
“While this year’s results (Edelman Trust Barometer) paint a rosy picture for government and business, expectations are high and, as recent history has shown us, Australians have a low tolerance for leaders that fall short of what was promised,” she says.
And building trust can mean business success as well as doing better at the polling booth, says David Brain, the President and CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa.
“We’re found that trust has a consistent meaning in all languages,” he told Business Insider Australia.
He says trust for a business means money, with customers buying more goods or services, recommending to friends and being prepared to pay a higher price.
“We always ask the question: Do you trust them to do the right thing?”
This year, Australian results reveal an average increase in trust across all government, business, non government institutions and the media, rising by eight points among the informed public to 58 per cent.
Trust in business has hit its highest level since the Edelman Trust Barometer started covering Australia in 2009, rising 11 points to 59 per cent among the informed public.
Australians now expect business to play a much bigger role around the debate and design of regulation, with 73 per cent believing government should not be working alone when setting policy.
Despite increasing confidence in business and its role in broader society, Australians largely want government to apply greater scrutiny on the private sector.
According to the Barometer, almost half (47 per cent) claim the financial services industry does not have enough regulation, while 58 per cent want increased regulation on the energy sector.
Ms Hutton said:
“It has typically fallen under the remit of government to create the context for change. Today, people expect businesses to play a bigger role in shaping a positive future, trusting business to innovate, unite and deliver across borders, but as the Edelman Trust Barometer reveals, only under the watchful eye of government. CEOs must now go beyond their operational remit to become chief engagement officers, educating the public about the context in which their business operates.”
Australians show a preference for family-owned (76 per cent) and small to medium-size enterprises (67 per cent), trusting these types of businesses to do what is right.
Less than half (42 per cent) said the same of big business, demonstrating the continued support Australians show for local businesses.
Trust in companies headquartered in China, Australia’s largest two-way trading partner, is very low (23 per cent), underscoring Australian attitudes towards foreign investment, particularly by Chinese sovereign-owned enterprises.
UK companies were the most trusted (74 per cent) followed by Japan (68 per cent), the US (62 per cent) and South Korea (50 per cent).
This sector tops all industries in trust. Three quarters (73 per cent) of Australians believe the technology sector will do the right thing.
Consumer electronics manufacturing comes in second with a 68 per cent trust level.
This chart shows the sudden jump in trust in governments following a trend down since 2009: