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Aussies’ Trust In Institutions Tumbles, Tech And Consumer Electronics Still The Most Trusted Sectors

AussiesThe barometer found trust in government, business, media and NGOs in the general population is below 50 per cent in two thirds of countries, including Australia, reaching lows not seen since the 2009 global financial crisis.

Richard Edelman, Edelman president and CEO, labelled it “a startling decrease in trust”, driven by the “unpredictable and unimaginable events of 2014”.

“The spread of Ebola in West Africa; the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, plus two subsequent air disasters; the arrests of top Chinese government officials; the foreign exchange rate rigging by six global banks; and numerous data breaches, most recently at Sony Pictures by a sovereign nation, have shaken confidence,” Edelman commented.

Globally, Australia recorded one of the largest drops in business trust, declining 11 points to 48 per cent.

As a worldwide trend, the barometer found the drop in business trust was highlighted by declines in trust in the technology industry for the first time in many countries, which however still remains the most trusted sector.

Looking at the rationale behind trust issues, the barometer found 53 per cent of Australians believe innovation is happening too quickly, with 72 per cent believing it is being driven by greed and 74 per cent by business growth imperatives.

Meanwhile, only 14 per cent of Australians believe innovation is occurring to make the world a better place, while 57 per cent feel business is not doing enough testing of new developments and 45 per cent want stronger regulation.

Edelman noted the “pace of change has never been faster”, with innovation having become “an even greater imperative for business success”.

“Innovation should be a trust accelerator, but today it is not,” he stated.

“To invent is no longer enough. There must be a new compact between company and individual, where companies demonstrate that innovations are safe based on independent research, provide both societal and personal benefit, and are committed to the protection of customer data.”

The barometer further found, dependent on the type of innovation, trust levels vary significantly.

The technology, financial services and health industries, including electronic and mobile payments (55 per cent) and personal health trackers (48 per cent), have higher levels of trust than the energy and food sectors, such as hydraulic fracturing (35 per cent) and genetically modified foods (34 per cent).

Tim Riches, Edelman Australia chief executive officer, noted businesses need to adopt a transparent framework to achieve trusted innovation, such as sharing information and fostering collaboration around problems that need solving.

“While developing innovations, business must engage in open conversation and meaningfully involve stakeholders,” Riches commented.

“There are plenty of recent examples of big brands being hit with a social media backlash to product innovations that don’t convince customers, and in fact brand-loyals may actually be more likely to revolt.”

The barometer also found trust in government has declined, dropping from 56 per cent to 49 per cent, having increased 13 points in the previous year, as prime minister Tony Abbott and his government languish in public esteem.

“The decline in trust in government in 2015 will partly be the electoral equivalent of buyer’s remorse – a correction of the ‘hope’ spike new leaders often represent,” Riches stated, adding that the government had “failed to establish trusted leadership in the hearts and minds of Australians at a time when we need it most”.

The barometer additionally recorded the growing influence of social media and “digital-first/hybrid media” (such as BuzzFeed), and found online search engines have become the more trusted source for general news and information in Australia (62 per cent) over traditional media (55 per cent).