Trust levels remain high in Asia Pacific finds Edelman

Edelman’s latest trust research has shown much higher levels of trust in business and government in Asia Pacific than in other regions of the

People in Asia Pacific are more trusting of business and government than people in the United States or Europe, according to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Among the general population (the first time the study assessed the views of this broader group), 76% trust business leaders to tell the truth (compared to 59% in the United States and 55% in Europe), and six in ten trust government leaders (compared to less than half in the US and EU – 45% and 38%, respectively.)

Despite a worldwide decline in trust levels and particularly in governments, Asia dominated the “Trusters” category in the composite Trust Index.

The study, conducted in 25 markets globally, now classifies only seven as trusting and four of these were from Asia Pacific.

David Brain, president and CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific, said: “Despite the fragility of trust in Japan and South Korea, the region as a whole is still a bright light in a disconsolate world.”  

Of the four institutions measured (government, media, business and NGOs), only government declined in Asia Pacific, driven mainly by falls in South Korea, Indonesia and a huge drop in Japan (declines of 17 points, 22 points, and 26 points).  

Measured globally, the only institution that gained in trust was media in what for many developed countries was a terrible year for trust.  

Asia Pacific remains considerably less gloomy than the West, however, with trust in NGOs (65%), media (62%) and business (60%) leading that of government (54%) in the region.

There are significant differences in the business sectors that attract trust globally and in Asia Pacific.  

In the US and Europe, the financial and sovereign debt crises and the anger of bonuses have seen trust in banks (a 16 point decline globally since 2008) and financial services (the least trusted industry globally) fall drastically.

In Asia Pacific markets that escaped these problems, trust remains high in the sector (seven in ten trust banks, the third most trusted industry) and financial services (63%).

However, the news was not all good for business as the study also showed for the first time what people want from business and how they perceive it is delivering.
Businesses and governments in Asia Pacific are underperforming according to the public’s expectations.

The study reveals that the general public does not believe companies or local governments are performing at the level they should be, on various elements, in order to build trust.

Attributes rated poorly on performance versus expectation include having “transparent and open practices” (32 point gap for business and 46 point gap for government), “listens to customers/citizens needs and feedback” (28 point gap for business and 45 point gap for government) as well as “communicates frequently and honestly” (29 point gap for business and 44 point gap for government).

The five factors respondents rate as currently important to trust business are driven by operational attributes: “delivers consistent financial returns,” “innovates new products,” “ranks on a global list,” “has highly regarded leadership,” and “partners with third parties.”

Each of these attributes rank in the bottom of the factors considered important for building future trust.

The most important attributes – “delivering high quality products,” “listening to consumers’ needs and feedback,” “taking action to address issues or crises,” and “treating employees well” – are mostly social concerns.

Brain added:“The time is now for business to own the license to lead. In order for business to grow, we must address the areas that are important to people, which will require public engagement on societal factors.”

Furthermore, business leaders are more trusted to tell the truth than government leaders in Asia Pacific. Forty six per cent of informed publics believe CEOs are credible spokespeople, while 31% find government representatives credible, the bottom of the list. In Japan, government officials are viewed as credible by a mere 8%, a record low.

Spokesperson credibility is becoming democratized in Asia Pacific, with “a person like yourself” considered credible by 60%, an increase of 23 points from last year. This regular representative is rated as the most credible spokesperson in China.

While traditional media is the most trusted source of information, online sources and social media are catching up quickly, with a percentage increase in 27% and 89% respectively, demonstrating the diversification of media.

The study also shows that people in Asia Pacific need to hear information multiple times in order to believe it, alluding to the effectiveness of multimedia programming and continual engagement. Sixty-four percent say they need information repeated three to five times in order to believe it, while 14% require repetition ten or more times.

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