TUESDAY 19 JAN 2021 11:42 AM


The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals there is a rampant ‘infodemic,’ in which people don’t know where or who to turn to for reliable information, with a majority of respondents believing that government leaders, business leaders and journalist are trying to mislead people with false information.

The global infodemic has driven trust in all news sources to record lows with social media and owned media the least trusted, while traditional media saw the largest drop in trust at eight points. In this climate, business has emerged as the most trusted institution, replacing the government, as it is deemed the only ethical and competent institution. Its has outscored the government by 48 points on competency and is approaching NGOs in ethics. The creation of vaccines has helped business seize the high ground of trust.

“The events of this past year reinforced business’ responsibility to lead on societal issues, such as upskilling workers and racial justice. It has also led to new expectations of business expanding its remit into unfamiliar areas, such as providing and safeguarding information,” says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman.

The 2021 barometer reveals that the greatest opportunity to earn business trust is guarding information quality, with 53% of respondents believing corporations need to fill the information void in the absence of media. Communications from ‘employers’ is the most trusted source of information, beating out national government, traditional media and social media. Given these new standards, there are new expectations for CEOs, with eight in ten respondents wanting to see CEOs speak on social issues, including the pandemic’s impact and job automation.

“There is a void in leadership that CEOs must fill. It starts with a broader mandate for business that focuses societal engagement with the same rigor, used to deliver on profits. Business must work to fulfil the business roundtable’s promise of a stakeholder economy,” says vice chairman of corporate affairs at Edelman, Dave Samson.

The influences of the infodemic afflict the majority of respondents, with only one in four practicing good information hygiene, which includes news engagement, avoiding echo chambers and verifying information. Among those who practice poor information hygiene there is substantially less willingness to get the Covid-19 vaccine within the first of its availability.