Public trust in traditional media has fallen to an all-time low as people increasingly favour their friends and contacts on the internet as sources of news and truth, according to research to be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. Public trust in traditional media has fallen to an all-time low as people increasingly favour their friends and contacts on the internet as sources of news and truth, according to research to be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.
Globalisation and rapid changes in technology have fuelled “virulent populism and nationalism,” said Richard Edelman, chief executive of the world’s largest public relations consultancy by revenues, which publishes the annual Edelman Trust Barometer.
Public anger will be fuelled by new estimates of global wealth inequality on Monday claiming eight billionaires hold as much wealth as half of the world’s 7.2 billion people.
In the Edelman index, for the first time, three-quarters of the 28 countries surveyed were categorised as “distrustful” of government, business, media and non-governmental organisations.
Global public confidence in institutions has dropped by more in the past year than in any other since the financial crisis in 2009 as people eschew experts in favour of their peers.
The implications of this accelerating scepticism are “deep and wide-ranging” said Mr Edelman, pointing to the election of Donald Trump in the US, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, likening the decline in trust to “the second and third waves of a tsunami” after the financial crisis of 2008.
Among the biggest losers of credibility was the media. Trust in media plunged from 51 per cent to 43 per cent, an all-time low for the index, with the sharpest falls in Ireland, Australia, Canada and Colombia.
People are shifting their faith towards the internet rather than traditional media as purveyors of truth, the results showed. In fact online search engines were deemed more reliable than traditional media for information, a reversal from five years ago.
The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become
“People now view media as part of the elite,” said Mr Edelman, which leads to a “proclivity for self-referential media and reliance on peers”.
Business leaders also fared poorly. Trust in chief executives fell 12 points to 37 per cent, a level not seen since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
At the core of this lack of faith was fear and unease in people’s lives. Even the informed public segment of the 33,000-person survey — a group of well-educated, wealthy individuals — have become less trustful, with 51 per cent saying the overall system has failed them.
To highlight the focus of the World Economic Forum’s theme of fostering more responsible leadership, the charity Oxfam has again starkly sought to highlight the gulf dividing the world’s richest people from the bulk of humanity.
Its figures are often disputed, but, using new data for the distribution of wealth in China and India, Oxfam now estimates that only eight billionaires own as much as 3.6bn people. Last year it said the 62 wealthiest people held as much as half of the world’s population.
The eight plutocrats named by the charity were based on the Forbes rich list and mostly made their money from owning US corporations. They were Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Amancio Ortega, founder of Inditex; Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway; Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms titan; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook; Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle; and Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg.
Seeking to channel anger at institutions and the richest people, UK Chief Executive of Oxfam, Mark Goldring said: “The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become”.
Separately, a report from PwC showed that business leaders seem relatively optimistic about the economic outlook — irrespective of rising concerns about political risk and social instability,
A survey of CEOS conducted last autumn, a period straddling the US election, showed that 38 per cent felt “very confident” about their company’s growth prospects over the next year, and 29 per cent thought that global economic growth would rise. There were strikingly high readings for the UK and US, in spite of the former’s vote for Brexit and the latter’s political turmoil, suggesting that the underlying level of economic optimism remains relatively high.
However, there seem to be rising concerns about protectionism among global CEOs, particularly in the US and Mexico, where two-thirds of CEOS citing that as a concern. And Bob Moritz, PwC CEO, said that company executives feel increasingly worried about the risks of a social and political upheaval that could damage them. “There is a real lost of trust,” he said.