Edelman mid year Trust Barometer report shows declining trust – again

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer reveals some interesting, if expected, insights into levels of trust. You can see all the figures (and Twitter comments) on the Edelman site, but I just wanted to highlight some of the UK figures of particular interest:

Addressing global issues

  • 78% think government has not done enough to reduce energy costs and 74% think government has not done enough to minimise global warming

An interesting dichotomy that perhaps indicates that people don’t/won’t accept that tackling global warming is going to cost them more personally.

Brand trust

  • 54% have switched to a new brand in the past six months because of something positive they heard or read
  • 35% switched to a new brand in the past six months because of something negative they heard or read

Actions to rebuild trust

  • Transparent and honest business practices (98%) ranks top for rebuilding trust, followed by treating employees well (97%), quality (94%) and frequent and honest communications (93%)
  • 89% would trust a company more if it invested in R&D to drive innovation
  • Over half (59%) believe that CEOs appearances in media on strategy and performance help to rebuild public trust

Stakeholders

  • Employees and customers (95%) rank as the CEO’s most important stakeholders when making decisions, followed by local community (84%) and society at large (83%) – ahead of shareholders (78%) and government (55%)

All of the issues highlighted under brand trust, actions to rebuild trust and stakeholders are yet yet more validation of the importance of reputation and the need for effective public relations and corporate communications to manage and ‘curate’ reputation.

Edelman UK also did some supplementary research as a result of the recent parliamentary expenses scandal.The most fascinating figures for me were:

  • 73% trust MPs in general less than six months ago vs 1% trust more (22% trust the same)
  • 37% trust their local MP less than six months ago vs 7% trust more (49% trust the same)

This apparently indicates that people’s trust in their own local MP has been damaged far less than their trust in MPs generally. This potentially bodes well for MPs of all parties who haven’t personally been implicated in the expenses scandal as the collateral damage, while bad, isn’t as bad as expected. However, this is very complex issue. A few years ago I did some research into people’s knowledge, trust and support of their local MP. What we found out is the more a person knew about their MP, the higher the levels of trust and support. Interestingly this was despite party affiliation. You could find people who were firm Labour voters who ‘admired’ their local Conservative MP because they knew what they did for them. For firm supporters this wouldn’t make a difference to how they voted, but for undecided and weak voters it could frequently make a difference.

However, the most important factor was if the person had met their MP. Trust and support levels were invariably a lot higher if they ‘knew’ the MP. And therein lies the problem for politicians. With constituencies of 60,000 plus it is almost impossible for even the most hard working MP to have personal contact with more than a fraction of electors. If we truly value British democracy we should be looking to take steps that increase people’s trust in politicians. It illustrates how ludicrous, and indeed damaging, David Cameron’s idea of reducing the number of MPs is. I can understand why he’s saying it, it’s a populist vote winner, but if he truly believed in what was best for Britain and democracy I very much doubt he’d be floating the idea of something that would further reduce trust in MPs.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://www.paulseaman.eu Paul Seaman

    We’ve got to stop taking people’s opinions at face value. Nobody trusts the media? Not until they reveal MPs’ expenses, surely? Bashing the media is an international sport played by millions, taken seriously by few. As PRs we know how influential the media are – be it old or new media. So dig beneath the surface of Edelman’s trust survey’s results and we might even find that the UK’s Parliamentary democracy is more trusted than the Chinese alternative. If nobody else will stick up for UK MPs, I shall. Here’s my reality check:

    http://paulseaman.eu/2009/07/edelman-trust-survey-requires-scepticism-again/

  • http://robskinner.typepad.com Rob Skinner

    Well said, Stuart – I’m a case in point, as I’ve found my local Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan a really good constituency member, even though I’m hardly a Tory! It led me to give her the benefit of the doubt when she featured in the expenses scandal as the ‘dogfood MP’. (The fact the claim was for less than £5 also helped!)

  • stuart

    @Paul Good post, I’d be interested to see a response from someone at Edelman. My post was making a defense of MPs. Out of 650, there are bound to be some bad apples, but most are in it for what they can do (public service) rather than what they can get! If people only get their opinion about MPs from what is reported by the media, it’s little wonder they have little trust. And why we should expect it to be higher if it’s first hand.

    @Rob Exactly. My good friend John Grogan is the Selby MP and only survived at the last election because so many local people think he is a good, hard working MP who delivers on local issues, despite them not supporting him politcally.