Trust: when big institutions such as business or government have it, people support them and urge their friends to do the same.
When the institutions don’t have it, people withhold endorsements and can be vocal in their criticism.
For more than a decade, Edelman, a global public relations firm, has surveyed well-informed, highly educated and relatively affluent citizens of countries all over the world to produce the Edelman Trust Barometer, a measure of trust levels enjoyed by government, business, media and non-governmental organizations.
At Valencia today, Matthew J. Harrington, Edelman U.S. President and CEO; Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah, college scholar in residence and international conflict resolution expert; college President Sandy Shugart and about 40 honors students gathered on campus for a symposium focusing on survey results for 2011.
Bottom line: trust is holding steady globally across all sectors, but when looked at separately, the U.S. saw declines.
Stubbornly high unemployment rates, crises such as the gulf oil spill, product recalls and fighting between government and business contributed to those declines, according to the survey results.
Worldwide, trust in the automobile and technology industries is up from last year while banks’ reputations took a nosedive.
The survey, conducted in 23 countries, seeks to gauge public trust in institutions. Put another way, the survey looks at the degree people believe an enterprise will do the right thing.
Trust is valuable to institutions in part because it helps speed recovery after an adverse event, Harrington said.
According to the survey, 57 percent will believe negative information about a distrusted company after hearing it once or twice, while only 15 percent will believe positive information heard the same number of times.
As for trusted companies, 51 percent will believe positive information heard once or twice while 25 percent will believe negative information heard the same number of times.
When it comes to the credibility of people speaking for an institution, academics ranked highest, followed by company technical experts. Hearing information from a “person like yourself” fell in the rankings.
In his remarks to students, Harrington said the decline of “person like yourself” as an information resource might be attributed to “social media exhaustion.” The cacophony of voices channeled through social media could be leading people to turn to more expert sources for advice and direction, he added.
Investing more in problem-solving would help people arrive at solutions to long-standing problems that affect how society perceives big institutions, Jadallah said. “If we don’t hold peace on a pedestal, keep it as a sacred goal, it could become quite a problem,” Jadallah said.
Shugart said institutions that take their credibility for granted risk losing it. Self-reflection and data from surveys such as the Edelman Trust Barometer can help keep institutions from losing their way, he said.
The Edelman Trust Barometer is typically unveiled at the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, held annually in January. Social media will receive special attention in the next survey, Harrington said.
Edelman is the largest independent public relations firm in the world. It has offices in 53 cities, including Orlando.
To read more about the Edelman Trust Barometer, visit http://www.edelman.com/trust/2011/