Low Levels of Trust: Irish Business & Government – Edelman Trust Barometer

Less than 10pc of the general public believes a business or government leader will actually tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue, according to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, which was published this morning.

The survey also found that both business and government (the system of government rather than a particular administration) in Ireland remain severely distrusted with only one-third of people prepared to say they trust business and slightly less than a quarter trusting the government.

Trust in government remained largely stable over the year after rising (15 percentage points) the previous year, according to the survey. Banking (15pc) and financial services (18pc) remain the least trusted industry sectors in Ireland, while technology (64pc) continues to be the most trusted.

The primary reasons for the general population’s lack of trust in business were found to be a combination of perceptions of corruption or fraud and the wrong incentives driving business decisions. The main reasons for lack of trust in government were found to be poor performance and incompetence.

Levels of trust in media (45pc) and NGOs (63pc) both rose by ten percentage points in 2012 with media benefiting from a diversification of options and strong coverage of scandals. Traditional media (newspapers and broadcast) at 51pc is the most trusted source of information in Ireland among the general public, followed by online search engines at 47pc. Only one in four claims to trust social media.

Levels of trust in ethics and morality in Ireland are very low – people do not trust government or business leaders, to tell the truth, make ethical decisions, solve social issues or regulate problem sectors.

More Irish people (59pc) trust the European Union than their own national government (18pc) to manage the eurozone debt crisis. This contrasts with the UK and Germany where more people (almost half) trust their national government.

“Ireland in 2012 remained a society of distrusters,” said Edelman Ireland managing director, Mark Cahalane. “Clearly past events and the continued difficult economic climate make conditions in Ireland more challenging than elsewhere. Despite this, low levels of trust in both business and government are particularly concerning at a time when trust levels in neighboring and peer countries have been recovering. This has now become a crisis for the leadership of Ireland’s business and government organizations who simply cannot function effectively where such a deficit of trust exists. Leaders in business and government must embrace the public’s desire for transparency as well as listen to and act on the concerns of their stakeholders.”

For the first time, this year’s survey took an in-depth look at the least trusted of the 11 sectors covered by the barometer. With just 15pc of Irish people saying they trust the banking sector, the survey found that Irish respondents were dissatisfied with the performance of banks in areas such as lending, pricing and the safeguarding of customers’ personal information. The survey also found that 66pc of people believed that banks themselves were entirely to blame for a number high profile banking scandals during the year instead of external factors like regulation or the economy.

This year’s barometer also reveals that academics, technical experts and ‘a person like yourself’ are nearly twice as trusted as a chief executive or government official.

Globally, the barometer indicates a dramatic change in how trust in companies is established as stakeholders are now placing greater importance on engagement and integrity-based attributes such as treating employees well, listening to customers and exhibiting ethical and transparent practices. Operational-based attributes, including financial performance and being recognized as a ‘best’ place to work, were nearly twice as important in 2008 (76pc) as they are in 2013 (39pc).

The Edelman Trust Barometer is a global survey of trust in institutions across 26 countries and more than 31,000 people.