The government/business trust dynamic

March 2014

The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows the largest ever gap between trust in business and government since the study began in 2001. Bad news for political communicators, but encouraging news for their corporate counterparts: Edelman attribute their findings to “a continued destruction of trust in government that began in 2011, and a steady rise in belief in business since its nadir in 2008.” In nearly half of the 27 nations surveyed for the study, there is a gap of more than 20 points. In a few nations, the divide is as much as 40 points. Edelman describe this situation as a tables-have-turned scenario, comparing 2009, where business had to partner with government to regain trust, to today, where business must lead the debate for change. However, the survey acknowledges that government has the upper hand over business in at least one respect.
 
Although business has steadily rebounded since the implosion of trust experienced in 2008/09 and is showing signs of stability, memories of the meltdown and the usual negative headlines that appear in the media reinforce strong distrust in business as its own regulator. Despite the declining trust in government, there is very strong demand for government regulation of business to protect consumers (see above). As Edelman’s report baldly states, “42% of informed publics globally believe there is not enough government regulation of business.” More than half of respondents see protecting consumers from business as an important role for government. Demand for oversight is even higher for industries where the potential impact on environmental, health and economic wellbeing is more prominent, like energy, food and beverage and financial services. Encouragingly for business, however, the survey also finds that most respondents agree that businesses have the permission to play a role in regulation and debate: 79% agree that, when policymakers are developing new regulations on busieness and industries, they should consult with multiple stakeholders, including the affected businesses. Trust, it seems, is still a two-way street. 

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