South Africans are losing trust in government and the media. This is according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer survey conducted by US-based public relations and marketing consultancy firm Edelman, in 26 global jurisdictions.
The annual survey, which measures the level of trust in governments, the media, business and non-governmental organisations, says the world is becoming less trusting of these institutions.
The fall in trust comes despite a strong global economy and near full employment. It says a sense of “inequity and unfairness” is driving distrust, as the institutions “increasingly serve the interests of the few over everyone”.
Edelman says these institutions are not effectively building trust on two factors: competence, which is delivering on promises and ethical behaviour, which is doing the right thing and working to improve society.
The strong economy has also done little to allay structural changes to the world economy. It found that 83% of employees: “fear losing their job, attributing it to the ‘gig’ economy, a looming recession, a lack of skills, cheaper foreign competitors, immigrants who will work for less, automation, or jobs being moved to other countries”.
The barometer measures trust out of 100, with 50 being the threshold of what it considers trust in an institution. Overall trust stands at 54 points in 2020, a point rise, however Edelman stresses that this does not tell the whole story.
About 57% of the general population say: “government serves the interest of only the few”, while 30% say “government serves the interests of everyone”.
This is even more true at home.
The survey found that trust in South Africa’s government has fallen one point to 20 points (the lowest in the 26 countries measured).
Of those polled, South Africans’ lack of trust in government is an outlier. This can be seen in Spain, the country with the second least trust in government, ranking ten points higher.
SA’s media did not rate well either, as it has fallen a point to 40 points. This reflects a global trend where overall trust now sits at 49 points.
The growing distrust in media can be seen in 57% of those polled agreeing that the media they used is “contaminated with untrustworthy information,” and 76% worrying about “false information or fake news being used as a weapon”.
Trust in local business is, however, unchanged at 58 points.
Trust in South Africa has fallen from 45 points in 2019 to 44 points in 2020. From what Edelman calls the ‘informed public’ — wealthier, more educated, and frequent consumers of news — trust stands at 49 points, while that of the mass population is at 44 points.