Edelman Trust Barometer shows rising mistrust, but opportunity for businesses

After everything the world went through last year, from a global pandemic and divisive politics to incredibly powerful social movements, it’s no surprise what the Edelman Trust Barometer revealed for 2021: misinformation and mistrust are rampant. 

The four institutions which the Edelman Trust Barometer analyzes – business, government, NGOs and media – are now tasked, more than ever, with repairing damaged perceptions and focusing on concerned constituents. 


Some of the main takeaways from the report include:

  • A significant drop in trust was exposed in the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China. The governments in both countries are distrusted by citizens globally, but also by people within their own borders.
  • Alongside distrust in governments, survey respondents don’t find credibility in individual leaders, including those in religious institutions and in business, like CEOs.
  • Concerns around misinformation, perpetuated by the pervasive term “fake news,” has driven the belief that very little information is true, trustworthy, and valid. This trend permeates in tangible ways: Poor information hygiene is linked to a decrease in willingness to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • Yet it’s not all disappointing: this year’s report shined a light on where businesses can help declining trust levels. Of the four studied institutions, business is the most trusted with a 61% trust level globally and the only one of the four seen as both competent and ethical.


These insights bring forth a few questions:

How do we bounce back from a trust deficit?

What institutions — or individuals — will be most critical to this rebuild? 

The dramatic erosion of trust that took place over the last year is clear. Widespread misinformation has led to mass confusion around the truth and quality of what we hear, see, and share.

The next step for businesses, cultures, and individuals, is to — together — chart our path forward.

Read Edelman’s full report here.

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