For more than two decades, Edelman Trust has been conducting a survey on the trust that global society places in four main areas: Government, Business, Media, and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO’s). The survey stems from the belief that trust is a major element in maintaining social order.
This year's survey once again presented some rather important data through its sample of 36,000 people in 28 countries. The survey focused on a rather disconcerting situation: the profound inability of societies to meet the challenges of this era.
Here are the main reasons that our global society is facing a crisis
Edelman finds that there are four causes behind this crisis:
1. The growing distrust of the government and the media;
2. The over-reliance on the business world;
3. The growing divide between the rich and the poor; and
4. The failure of leadership.
Short-term economic prospects are particularly concerning to global citizens. In Italy, only 27% believe their living conditions will improve, including that of their family’s—this figure aligns with the principal “developed democracies” like Germany (22%) and France (18%), but also with Japan (15%). China, Colombia, and Kenya are more confident, however.
People also feel worse about the reliability of traditional media and social media, which are only anxious about gaining likes and views. In this area, people are particularly concerned with the quality of information. About 76% of respondents say they fear the spread of fake news and its exploitation . Globally, only 26% of people consider reliable the news they get. Italians are among the most attentive to this aspect: about 35% say they read or watch the news on a regular basis and check its reliability before sharing it.
Governments’ repeated failures to address social and climate issues have also led to an increase in public confidence in businesses and NGOs, which, however, are not equipped with the necessary tools to be able to meet today’s challenges on their own. The business sector is considered more competent than the government. In this area, CEOs hold particular importance. 60% of survey respondents expect their CEO to inform and fuel public debate on social issues and more rights-related topics such as pay equity, discrimination, and immigration.
Another factor of today’s crisis is the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. The gap continues to grow unchecked, widening that abyss that emerged years ago. While high income earners still trust institutions, lower income earners are becoming increasingly distrustful, leaving room for conspiracy theories, populism, and the spread of fake news.
Finally, the failure of traditional leaders in society has generated distrust and reinforced the role of business and NGOs seen as competent and effective catalysts for positive change. Among respondents, only 42% place trust in their government leaders, below journalists (46%) and CEOs (49%). This dynamic results in the emergence of local, dispersed trust rather than hierarchical trust. 77% percent of respondents say they place particular trust in their employer, with business following at 61%, NGOs at 59%, the government at 52%, and, finally, the media at 50%. In Italy, trust in one’s employer is particularly high, where it remains at a steady 76%... the same goes for India with 90%, Mexico with 85%, and Saudi Arabia with 82%. It is generally lower in European countries like Spain with 72%, Germany with 71%, and France with 67%.
Among leaders, on the other hand, while the credibility of scientists (75%) has risen by 5 points, that of one's work colleagues (74%), national health authorities (which has gone up by 10 points to 63%), and one's CEO (66%) remains very high.
How shall we proceed?
Given the numbers, a question arises: How can we cope with the current global crisis if we don’t trust those who are supposed to fix it? The people we once trusted have lost their authority, and others have taken over. However, because of their role, they are unable to respond to and alleviate a whole range of problems we are dealing with today.
It is certainly necessary to establish a new balance in which each figure involved plays his or her part and, all together, they cooperate in such a way that society as a whole may benefit. Though, for this to happen the focus has to shift from self-interest to public interest.
Therein lies the problem… the virus that afflicts society today: we are focused on our own self-interest, forgetting that a thriving society doesn’t leave any man behind. We see only the tip of the iceberg but not the base. It is not a matter of neglecting one’s household, the private sphere, but of considering it as only part of a whole. This is the only way to make sure imbalances and divides are avoided.
Values need to be reassessed and then concrete actions need to be taken that align with those values. Empty words that are no longer respected or believed are spoken in vain. Only with this reversal in ethics will it be possible to take action by counteracting the negative trends in which we find ourselves today.