business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

One of my favorite Latin proverbs goes like this:

Trust, like the soul, never returns once it goes.

The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, published annually by Edelman Public Relations, is out, revealing that global trust in government “fell a record nine points to 43 percent.”

According to the report, “In seventeen of the 25 countries surveyed, government is now trusted by less than half to do what is right. In twelve, it trails business, media, and non governmental organizations as the least trusted institution. France, Spain, Brazil, China, Russia, and Japan, as well as six other countries, saw government trust drop by more than ten points. Government officials are now the least credible spokespeople, with only 29 percent considering them credible. Nearly half of the general population—the first time the Barometer looked at this broader group—say they do not trust government leaders to tell the truth.”

But business leaders should not congratulate themselves, as “CEO credibility declined 12 points to 38 percent, its biggest drop in nine years.”

“Although business experienced fewer and generally less severe declines in trust, it has its own hurdles to clear,” the report says. “Trust in business fell globally from 56 percent to 53 percent, with countries like France and Germany, in the heart of the Eurozone economic crisis, experiencing double-digit decreases. Lack of confidence in business spread to South Korea, where trust dropped 15 points. China was the only country to see a significant increase in trust in business, rising from 61 to 71 percent.”

I think this is an enormously dangerous trend, for government and for business. When trust breaks down, chaos ensues. And like the proverb says, once it is gone, it is extremely difficult to regain.

One other note from the survey. Here is a passage that normally would make me feel good:

“Media, the one institution to see an increase, saw its global trust level rise above 50 percent. It experienced significant regional upticks in India (20 points), the U.S. (18 points), the UK (15 points) and Italy (12 points).”

That’s a change, but I’m not entirely sure it is good news. At least here in the US, the fragmentation of the media landscape has made it possible for people only to watch, read or listen to the sources with which they already agree. People who believe Fox News watch Fox News. People who believe MSNBC watch MSNBC. (Not sure who is watching CNN these days, but that’s another issue.) People may say they find these media sources to be more trustworthy, but that may be because these outlets are preaching to their own individual choirs.

Which goes a long and Eye-Opening way towards explaining the state of governmental affairs these days...
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