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As Mistrust in Institutions Grows, Masses Wrest Control from Elites, Study Finds

January 26, 2017

Around the world, public trust in government, business, media and nongovernmental organizations saw its largest drop ever in the “2017 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER.” According to the company’s surveys, confidence in media plunged to an all-time low of 43 percent in 17 countries — while government, at 41 percent, is the least-trusted institution in half of the 28 countries surveyed. In business, CEO credibility dropped 12 points to a record low of 37 percent. And only 29 percent of those surveyed trust government leaders.

Fifty-three percent of respondents believe the overall system is unfair and offers little hope for the future. Only 15 percent think the system is working, while approximately one-third are uncertain. Widespread mistrust of institutions began with the Great Recession of 2008 and has been deepened by globalization and technological change, said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, who noted, “the mass population has taken control away from the elites.”

The study found that mistrust of the system and economic and societal fears over corruption (40 percent), immigration (28 percent), globalization (27 percent), eroding social values (25 percent) and the pace of innovation (22 percent) fuels the current populist movements. A media echo chamber that reinforces personal beliefs, while shutting out opposing points of view, worsens distrust. Of the four institutions, business is the only one that respondents feel can make a difference, by improving economic and social conditions. — Greg Beaubien


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