15 December 2005 - Geneva, Switzerland
A global public opinion survey carried out for the World Economic Forum in 20 countries, interviewing more than 20,000 citizens, paints an alarming picture of declining levels of trust. The survey, carried out by GlobeScan, shows that trust in a range of institutions has dropped significantly since January 2004 to levels not seen since the months following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The poll also reveals that public trust in national governments and the United Nations has fallen the most over the past two years.
The survey asked respondents how much they trust each institution “to operate in the best interests of our society”. Identical questions were asked in most of the same countries in January 2004, August 2002 and January 2001. Net trust levels are presented here – the difference between the percentage of respondents who express trust and those who express no trust in a given institution.
A full report, including charts illustrating all findings, is available at: https://www.weforum.org/trustsurvey
NOTE: The 14 countries that were tracked are: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the USA.
Declining trust in governments across the world
Of all the institutions examined, national governments have lost the most ground over the past two years. In 12 of the 16 countries for which data is available, public trust in the national government has declined by statistically significant margins, leaving only 6 of the tracking countries today with more citizens trusting their national government than distrusting them.
Trust in government has fallen the most in Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Spain, followed closely by Argentina and the USA. The case of Nigeria is also noteworthy, where trust in the national government fell by 13 points while trust in all other institutions rose. Even in countries such as Great Britain and India, where trust remains positive, it has suffered its biggest fall since tracking began in 2001. Only in Italy, Indonesia and France has trust in the national government held steady, although polling was completed prior to the recent riots across France. The Russian government is now the only institution in any country polled to have consistently increased trust since 2001.
Changing patterns of trust in global companies
While trust in global companies has not fallen everywhere, statistically significant declines have occurred over the past two years in 10 of 17 countries for which tracking data is available, and the overall trust level for global companies is the lowest since tracking began. After global companies had rebounded in 2004 to pre-Enron trust levels, these latest findings will be discouraging for business leaders. Perhaps most worrying for corporate executives are the sharp drops in trust in Spain, the USA and Canada, where net trust in global companies has turned negative for the first time. Trust in global companies is strongest in China, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia and India.
In commenting on the poll’s findings, Ged Davis, Managing Director, World Economic Forum, said: “The Annual Meeting in Davos in January will be held under the theme “The Creative Imperative” and it is clear from these figures that to regain the trust of the general public in institutions and governments we must find new and effective ways to reconnect with citizens and tackle the public trust deficit. If not, the very institutions that govern our world will be increasingly under threat.”
Doug Miller, President of GlobeScan, offered the following perspective: “If Francis Fukuyama was right when he described trust as the necessary glue of any properly functioning society, then these poll results suggest we’re in danger of becoming unstuck – especially when values-driven organizations like non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations are losing trust almost as quickly as large companies. It’s time for all organizations to better understand how to earn the public’s trust.”
Each national survey was based on a representative sample of about 1,000 adults and was conducted in-home or by telephone between June and August 2005 as part of the annual 20-nation GlobeScan Report on Issues and Reputation. Individual country findings are accurate within +/- 3%, with 95% confidence. Multi-country results were calculated using the one nation/one vote method.
Notes for Editors:
A fuller document detailing all the survey’s findings is available at: www.weforum.org/trustsurvey
For more details on the report’s findings please contact Doug Miller, President of GlobeScan doug.miller@GlobeScan.com
GlobeScan Incorporated (www.GlobeScan.com) with offices in Toronto, London and Washington DC, is a global public opinion and stakeholder research firm providing quantitative metrics and strategic counsel on key trends and emerging issues. More detailed coverage of the research presented in this release will be included in the December 2005 GlobeScan Report on Issues and Reputation, available by subscription.
The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
Incorporated as a foundation in 1971, and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit; it is tied to no political, partisan or national interests. (www.weforum.org)
For more information, please contact:
Communications and Public Affairs
World Economic Forum
Tel.: +41 (0) 22 869 1212
Fax: +41 (0) 22 869 1394