How much do we trust politicians, leaders, institutions, or companies?
How much credibility do we give to the press and the media in general?
Do we fear ideological manipulation "from above"?
Do we usually see ulterior motives behind the choice to offer up or hide certain information?
Some answers to these questions are outlined in the Edelman report, a global report that has been measuring the credibility of institutions, government, politics and the media in 28 countries for the past 20 years.
2020: the year of fear and a collapse of trust
Edelman's Trust Barometer shows that 2020 has seen a significant lack of trust in various areas of social life. Affecting this, no doubt, was the Covid-19 pandemic, which generated or accentuated fears and uncertainties. The report finds that the greatest fear was that of losing one's job, followed by concern about climate change.
The fear of contracting the virus comes in at fourth place, following the fear of falling victim to hacker attacks—also due to the increased use of computers in every aspect of our lives.
The research points out one specifically interesting fact: that there has been a general loss of trust in “leaders.” Trust in leaders is down by two points. Political leaders are in fact “looked at with suspicion”: people tend to fear that they “may say things they know to be false” in order to defend some particular interest. Additionally, trust in religious leaders fell by 4 points.
Journalists: the social actors the public trusts the least
Journalists have been the biggest disappointment for people in these 28 countries, with trust in them dropping by 5 points.
Looking at the tables, we see how the global health crisis has led to the spread of disinformation and suspicion, especially towards traditional media (especially in the last half of 2020).
Looking at the world of information, we see that not a single category reaches the level of credibility (which is 60 points): search engines are ranked the best, at 56 points—still below the credibility level.
For traditional media, the fiasco is even more evident, with a score of 53.
It is not only the quality and the selection of news that is being questioned—even writing style, vocabulary, and tone are not convincing. The interviewees note that the narration of the news tends to alarm its readership, generating panic, rather than informing them of facts and events.
Suspicion of political influence in the press and the growth in the demand for information
59% of the total sample claims that journalists deliberately choose to “mislead the public” or that they exaggerate. The widespread belief about news outlets is that they are more interested in defending a political position than conveying facts to the public. The fear is that the press is not truly free and that it defends partisan interests.
Finally, it should be noted that companies, in today's context, appear more credible than the media, but, at the same time, the demand for information is growing, indicating that citizens have little trust in the press but know they need it. This fact should work to encourage journalists and all those who are somehow involved in the dissemination of information. People recognize the importance of this sector. They know what a great responsibility journalists have to keep the general public abreast of issues and current events. That is why they have high expectations.
May this data inspire a sincere examination of conscience and motivate those in charge to gain back this trust that has been lost.