The pandemic’s toll on the public’s trust

A woman wears a face mask as she walks in the Old Port in Montreal on January 10, 2021. The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes

Trust in institutions has plunged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as fearful citizens perceive governments and business leaders to be purposely trying to mislead the public by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer. The global survey––typically released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, but issued virtually this year––surveyed more than 33,000 people in 28 countries on their trust levels in government, media, business and non-governmental organizations. Here are some highlights: 

The public trusts the private sector more than the government: Businesses, according to the survey, are the only institutions seen as both competent and ethical. By contrast, much of the global public perceives government to be both less competent and unethical. And despite 56 per cent of respondents suspecting business leaders of knowingly spreading falsehoods, businesses have comparably become more trusted than governments in 18 out of 27 countries surveyed. An exception: Canada, where trust in government was up nine points to 59 per cent, while trust in business was up only three points to 56 per cent.

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