Edelman Trust Barometer Points to a Tough Year for Capitalism

By Richard Telofski, Special for US Daily Review.

It’s that time of year again. The Edelman Trust Barometer (ETB) is out and its time to make some predictions based on its findings. But first, what’s the ETB?

What’s the Edelman Trust Barometer?

You don’t know about the Edelman Trust Barometer? If you do, then just go ahead and skip this paragraph as well as the next one. But if you are not familiar with the ETB, then you’re missing out on a good source of worldwide public opinion about the institutions that drive our society. The ETB is the result of an annual, worldwide survey completed by Edelman Public Relations. The survey uses a sample of over 30,000 respondents from 25 countries and asks those people how much, or how little, they trust certain industries, governments, NGOs, and other institutions.

The sample size of this annual survey is one of the things that I especially like about the ETB. Given the size of the sample, I feel that the ETB is a fairly reliable gauge of people’s trust in various institutions. I use it as a sound reference source in some of my writing. (And if you read my last book, then you know how much of a stickler I am for excellent sources.)

Since the ETB indicates how much, or how little, people trust the large organizations that seem to propel our lives, the findings in this annual report can be used to forecast the success or failure of the forces for or against capitalism, or at least capitalism in its present form. So, let’s take a look at the latest results of the Edelman Trust Barometer.

Selected and Summarized Findings of the ETB

  • Between 2011 and 2012, trust in business decreased from 56% to 53%, while trust in media increased from 49% to 52%. (Source: ETB, page 7)
  • Although trust in media increased for 2012, technology rated as the most highly trusted industry in the survey. (Source: ETB, page 10)
  • As it was for 2011, financial services continued to rank low in trust with over 50% of respondents. (Source: ETB, page 10)
  • In 2012, overall trust in governments took it on the chin. Trust in government fell for a majority of the countries examined, many of them in the developing world. But trust held steady in a minority of the countries examined, many of them in the developed world. The United States is included in this group. Trust in government increased significantly in only one country, Ireland. (Source: ETB, page 13)
  • Per above, the global average for trust in media increased slightly year over year for 2012, but in a number of countries trust increased significantly. (Source: ETB, page 14)

◦              In India, the increase was 20 percentage points.

◦              In the United States, the increase was 18 percentage points.

◦              And in the United Kingdom, the increase was 15 percentage points.

  • The repetition to belief factor was quite interesting. The survey asked the respondents to state how many times they need to be exposed to information about a company, positive or negative, in order to believe that information as true. (Source: ETB, page 15)

◦              19% of respondents said 1 to 2 times.

◦              63% of respondents said 3 to 5 times.

◦              6% of respondents said 6 to 9 times.

◦              13% of respondents said ten or more times.

The 2012 ETB shows many more findings, and you may see those by clicking here. But for our purposes in this article, I think the above findings can start to give us a pretty good picture of how institutional opinions might impact the fight for or against capitalism.


So, generally what we see from the Findings above is that trust in business is waning (Uh, no kidding. Just watch the news.), while trust in media is increasing. In fact, in America, the home of capitalism, trust in media, jumped by 18 points. (By the way, that’s the same media that tells us daily about the eroding trust in business.)

Although trust in government is falling globally overall, in places like the United States, the bastion of capitalism, that trust is holding fairly steady. (As an American I must say that this seems surprising, but that’s what the survey said.)

And all of this is occurring while most people (82%) can be convinced of most anything, positive or negative, about a company just as long as they have been exposed to that information five times or less. While you’re thinking about that, also think about the proliferation of social media, and how Web 2.0 rules the media day for many. Then think about how easy it is for anyone to say anything about any company from within social media.


Now, let’s think about these factors collectively. Trust in business, which is capitalism’s primary representative in the minds of most people, is slipping while trust in media, comprised of a mainstream media often skewing toward the liberal view and social media in the hands of almost anyone, is increasing at a time when most people will believe just about anything provided they hear it or see it five or fewer times.

Such conditions don’t indicate good battle conditions in a fight for capitalism. But they do indicate good conditions in a battle against capitalism. And this would be especially so in America when Americans feel no change in trust in their government, one that appears to be progressively leaning left.

Unless things change, given these trends it’s going to be a tough year for capitalism.

Richard Telofski is the principal researcher at The Kahuna Institute, Inc., a research group specializing in analyzing the effects of activism on organizations. He blogs about “The War on Capitalism” at www.Telofski.com.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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