Edelman has unveiled the Hong Kong findings from its annual global Trust Barometer, which finds that trust in business is still in decline among the informed public and the first significant increase for trust in government in years among the general public.
Among the four institutions measured by the 18th Edelman Trust Barometer (government, business, media and NGOs), the Hong Kong government leads with the greatest increase in trust by six points. Whether this is fueled by the effect of a new government ‘honeymoon period’ or a robust economy, which recorded 3.6 percent growth in 2017, is unclear, Edelman suggests.
“As the new government only took office in mid-2017, it comes as no surprise that their honeymoon period has been accompanied by an increase in trust, especially among the general population,” said Adrian Warr, Managing Director of Edelman Hong Kong. “If this continues remains to be seen, particularly as wider discontent around issues such as housing, social inequality and political rights prevails.”
This cautionary note is supported by the survey findings, which show that that whilst actual faith in the four institutions has been on the wane over the last five years, a skeptical public now believes that the government is the most broken institution.
The picture for business is similarly grim, according to the report. As the least trusted institution for six consecutive years, trust in Hong Kong business is 16 points below the global average. Trust has also declined in 14 of the 15 business sectors surveyed, most notably financial services and technology, which have traditionally been the bellwethers of this market.
Trust in media among the informed public fell by seven points over the last year, but among the general public lifted by one point after a three-year decline. Despite this, the global fake news phenomenon has helped lead 48 percent of this year’s Hong Kong respondents to say that they now find it hard to tell whether a piece of news is true or not.
However, there is some positive news for traditional media, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents trusting it as a source for news and information, up eight points to the most trusted source. Online-only media has also enjoyed a boost in trust by six points and social media by two points, while trust in search engines and owned media platforms has fallen, down four and two points respectively, year on year.
Nonetheless, a year of political change and stories about self-censorship have also driven up skepticism in editorial independence and 40 percent of respondents are now disengaged with the news, consuming it less than weekly. Media integrity is also at risk, as almost two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) believe that news organizations prioritize supporting political ideology over facts, while almost the same number (61 percent) feel that advertisers wield too much influence on what news we get to see.
This contrasts with CEO’s credibility, which has corrected from last year’s sharp drop and saw the highest increase, up 13 points, across all voices of authority. However, 57 percent of respondents in Hong Kong believe that CEOs are driven more by greed than a desire to make a positive difference in the world.
“The gradual decline in trust of business among the informed public reflects a worrying concern,” continued Warr. “However, as we head into Year of the Dog the resurgence of faith in the CEO reflects a growing opportunity for business leaders to get more in touch with Hong Kong’s issues and take a lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it.”
Embracing positive societal impact head on is critical, Warr argues, and today’s business should ideally be building this into their business models if they are to bring about meaningful change and restore trust.