This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer says two-thirds of Brits believe the country is on the wrong track

For the past 19 years, the Trust Barometer from PR firm Edelman has measured global trust in four key institutions – business, NGOs, media and government, and this year’s study shows a country that is deeply anxious. Nearly half (43%) believe their standard of living will get worse over the next year. And two-thirds of Britons believe the country is on the wrong track.

Anxiety rules
The political system has also done little to allay this anxiety. Three in five Britons do not feel that their views are represented in British politics. Half of Britons believe the socio-political system is broken. And Brexit has exposed that feeling. Just one in five of those questioned thought the government was doing a good job negotiating Brexit.

Some good news
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. This year saw a real desire for change in society. There is a renewed interest in current events, and more importantly, discussion. Britons are reading, watching and listening to more news than they did a year ago. In fact, this year saw a huge rise in news engagement – 22 points – from 2018. These aren’t just people who are switching on to the news again, but they are also sharing and posting content several times a month or more.

This is probably not a coincidence. After a seismic year in politics, Britons fear being out of touch. 71% of those who are consuming more news media do so because they say: “Things are changing so quickly I need to stay up to date.”

Employers are trusted
There was also an interesting new phenomenon for business this year. Nearly two-thirds (73%) say they trust “my employer” to do what is right. This compares with 47% for NGOs, 47% for business, 42% for government and 37% for the media – all falling into the ‘distrusters’ camp of under 50%.

Even when the traditional institutions are distrusted on the whole, Britons trust their employers. This is further evidenced by the fact that 50% of Britons say they look to their employer to be a “trustworthy source of information about social issues and other important topics on which there is not general agreement”.

Businesses can help
But this also has an external factor. Beyond making a profit, 65% of Britons rank treating employees well as the greatest obligation for business. Interestingly, this is 18 points higher than the number two answer: treating customers well (47%). This upends the old adage of “put the customer first.”

This year’s Trust Barometer shows us a mixed, bleak picture of the UK writ large, but at a local level, the message is clear. Business has a clear role to rebuild trust, and that starts at home, with employees.

The 2019 UK Supplement online survey sampled more than 2,000 respondents consisting of 2,000 general population respondents aged 18 and over, and boosts of high net worth individuals and those from low-income households. The general population sample is nationally representative of the UK population with regard to gender, age and region.

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Written by Edelman's Thom Holliday, marketing manager at