Trust in government on the up

Trust in government on the up

Trust is something that underpins the effectiveness of every communicator’s work, yet it’s often taken for granted that the person on the receiving end of communications trusts the organisation or individual trying to do the communicating.
In fact trust’s not a constant – it increases and decreases over time – something communicators need to be conscious of and take account of.
Each year Edelman runs a worldwide survey looking at how much different institutions and people are trusted in different societies. The 2009 survey results were unveiled today – details online here and the global findings are here.
The UK findings paint a picture of trust declining generally:

  • 68% trust companies less than they did a year ago
  • Trust in media dropped ten points to 28%
  • Trust in banks down 16 points to 31%
  • Trust in “People Like Me” declined 13 points to 38%

But for communicators working in local and central government there’s good news – trust in government appears to be rising for the second year in a row, with 41% of people in the UK now trusting the government compared to just 16% two years ago:
Trust in government
An interesting trend – possibly politically-driven with the change of Prime Minister, possibly linked to the current economic situation and feeling that governments are among the last bastions of institutional stability in society.

Robert Phillips’ presentation
also highlights some more trust trends for public sector communicators:

Britain trusts media less than any other of the 20 countries surveyed (30%).

Traditional sources of information are on the wane and at an all-time low: newspapers down 10 points at 19%; radio news down 20 at 33%

Low trust in conventional corporate comms: only 5% trust corporate/ product advertising; 15% for corporate website, press releases, live speeches

Younger info-entials continue the push into social networks and digital dialogue (by a credibility factor of 3:1 vs. 35+ age group) – but curiously are more trusting of all information sources including traditional media too

So for public sector communicators I think this means a need to use this position of increased trust wisely – both in choice of message, content, tone and channel.
Government, both local and central, also needs to continue to look beyond traditional media and overcome the media trust decline by innovating with new media as a communications tool – reaching out directly to those who don’t use or don’t trust “traditional” media.


I work as a fractional Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for company building and I also write a newsletter called Build for leaders who care about creating resilient and sustainable businesses.