Trust in U.S. Institutions Plummets, Survey Finds

Trust in U.S. Institutions Plummets, Survey Finds

Driven by a "staggering lack of faith in government," trust in institutions in the United States fell nine points to 43, dropping the U.S. to the lower quartile of the 28-country Trust Index, a new survey from global communications firm Edelman finds.

According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer (61 pages, PDF), trust among the informed public in the U.S. imploded in 2017, plunging twenty-three points to 45, the lowest reading for any of the twenty-eight countries surveyed (and below Russia and South Africa). Conducted between October 28 and November 20, the online survey of thirty-three thousand respondents in twenty-eight countries also found that the share of Americans who say they trust nonprofits dropped from 58 percent to 49 percent. The survey found that the collapse in trust in the U.S. was driven to a significant degree by a lack of faith in government, which fell fourteen points (to 33 percent) among the general population and thirty points (to 33 percent) among the informed public. 

The country with the highest trust score was China, both among the general population (74 percent) and the informed public (83 percent). Institutions within China also saw significant increases in trust, led by government, which jumped eight points (to 84 percent) among the general population and three points (to 89 percent) among the informed public. Joining China at the top of the index were India, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore.

Of note, the survey found that, for the first time, the media was the least trusted institution globally and is now distrusted in twenty-two of the twenty-eight countries included in the survey, due primarily to a significant drop in the general population’s faith in search engines, social media, and other platforms. Indeed, 63 percent of survey respondents said they do not know how to tell good journalism from rumor or falsehoods or whether or not a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization.

"Silence is a tax on the truth," said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the firm. "Trust is only going to be regained when the truth moves back to center stage. Institutions must answer the public's call for providing factually accurate, timely information and joining the public debate. Media cannot do it alone because of political and financial constraints. Every institution must contribute to the education of the populace."

"2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Reveals Record-Breaking Drop in Trust in the U.S." 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Press Release 01/29/2018.