Public trust crumbles amid COVID and fake news

By Mark John LONDON (Reuters) – Confidence in governments, business bosses and the media is crumbling amid perceived mishandling by leaders of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread sentiment among citizens common that they are being misled, according to a global survey. The Edelman Trust Barometer, which has surveyed thousands of people over two decades about their trust in critical institutions, found that 57% of people believe government leaders, company bosses, and journalists are spreading falsehoods or exaggerations. By dividing responses according to an individual’s media habits and voting patterns, the survey found greater vacillation among those who primarily rely on social media, and underscored the polarization of politics in the US. U.S. “The violent assault on the US Capitol last week and the fact that only a third of people are willing to receive a COVID vaccine crystallize the dangers of misinformation,” said Richard Edelman, whose communications group Edelman produces the survey. . The figure Edelman cited referred to the fact that an average of just 33% of respondents in 27 countries covered by the survey said they would take the vaccine as soon as possible. Another 31% said they would take it within a year. The survey was conducted between October 19 and November 18 among more than 33,000 respondents, and a supplement was conducted in December after the US presidential election. GOVERNMENTS LESS TRUST Governments, which in a previous survey conducted early in the pandemic saw a rebound in their confidence ratings from audiences who wanted them to prioritize saving lives over the economy, saw steep losses in confidence levels as it progressed year. As a whole, confidence in the institution of government fell from a record high of 65% last May to 53% at the end of the year. Losses were particularly severe in South Korea, Britain and China. Confidence in the media, which had already declined in the survey since 2019, fell further. Trust in traditional media fell 8 points to 53%, although they still attracted more trust than social media, which fell five points to 35%. Strong national majorities across the board viewed the media as doing a poor job of being objective and non-partisan, with Japan in Asia, Italy in Europe, and Argentina in South America registering particularly high distrust scores. In the United States, levels of trust diverged based on political affiliation: While 63% of Joe Biden voters trusted journalists, that figure dropped to 21% for voters of Donald Trump, who has long denigrated traditional media as “fake news”. Although most business leaders suspected they were engaging in falsehoods and exaggerations, they nonetheless came out of the survey with higher levels of overall confidence than governments or the media. Nine out of 10 respondents said they wanted CEOs to talk about the impact of the pandemic, labor and social issues, and more than two-thirds expect them to step in when the government doesn’t fix problems.

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