2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a further drop in trust in South Africa


Jordan Rittenberry | Managing Director | Edelman South AfricaJordan.Rittenberry@edelman.com |

Business is Considered Most Likely to Lead to a Better Future.

Trust among the general South African population in the mainstream institutions of government, media, non-governmental organisations and business is in steady decline. However, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that while only 14 percent of the general population trusts the government, 77 percent believe that chief executive officers should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it.

When asked which of the four institutions is the most likely to lead to a better future, 45 percent chose business while only 11 percent chose government.

This lack of faith in government is the reason why former President Jacob Zuma was forced to resign a year ahead of schedule as the corruption allegations levelled against him are said to have contributed to the increasingly negative public opinion of the ANC and the government.

Among the general population in South Africa, from 2017 to 2018, trust in government dropped from 15 to 14 percent; in media from 39 to 35 percent; in business from 56 to 53 percent; and in NGOs from 58 to 50 percent.

Edelman has been measuring trust in the four main institutions since 2001 and South Africa has been included in the survey every year since 2014. This year, the Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that 20 of the 28 countries surveyed now fall into the category of distrusters, with South Africa’s Trust Index decreasing by four points as the country became the third least trusting market.

While six global markets recorded extreme increases in trust, an equal number, including South Africa, experienced extreme losses in trust in the four main institutions. Locally, there was an overall drop of 17 points while in the United States, there was a dramatic decline of 37 points.

Trust in Media Erodes

The Trust Barometer found that 69 percent of South Africans are worried about fake news being used as a weapon and compounding this result is the discovery that people now define media as both content and platforms.

Trust in journalism and platforms declined by two and eight points respectively, and nearly half the population in the country consumes news less than once a week. People remain sceptical of news organisations with 61 percent believing news corps are more concerned with attracting a big audience as opposed to reporting and 59 percent believe news publications sacrifice accuracy to be the first to break a story.

Worryingly, 62 percent of the general population believe that the average person does not know how to tell good journalism from rumour and 54 percent believe that it’s becoming harder to tell if news was produced by a respected media organisation or not.

Businesses and CEOs Must Lead

As voices of authority regained credibility with 11 and 12-point increases in the credibility of CEOs and boards of directors respectively, it’s clear that people are looking to business to lead.

The Edelman Trust Barometer found that the most important expectations South Africans have of CEOs are that their company is trusted; that their business decisions reflect company values; that their products and services are of a high quality; and that they set high ethical standards.

Globally, the Trust Barometer found that trust in business increased in 14 of the 28 markets surveyed, meaning there are opportunities for business to affect change and gain even higher levels of trust among the general population.



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