Australians have lost trust in institutions, business and the media, according to a mid-year update of the Edelman Trust Barometer.
Trust in government (- 9 points), business (-4 points), media (-10 points) and NGOs (-7 points) fell sharply, stripping away most gains recorded late last year.
Government, business and NGOs fell from “trusted” to “neutral”, while media is now “distrusted”.
“My Employer” emerged as the only trusted institution, climbing 2 points, to a 80%, suggesting the boss is in a position to address larger social problems by providing trustworthy information and guidance.
Expectations on business to solve societal problems are already at extreme highs, with 61% of respondents believing Australia will not be able to overcome challenges without corporate involvement.
Edelman Australia’s CEO Michelle Hutton says snap lockdowns continue to chip away at Australia’s collective patience.
"Challenges with the vaccine rollout, from high hesitancy rates to low supply and lack of urgency, raise questions over the operational management of our COVID-19 exit plan – not to mention the sustained public discord between federal and state governments," she says.
"High-profile battles between industry and regulators continue to play out, whether that’s AUSTRAC’s march on financial crime or the ACCC’s gridlock with tech platforms that underscored how vulnerable the public’s access to information can be.
"Women’s rights again took centre stage with new abuse allegations in Canberra, the formation of March4Justice, and the formation of a Women’s Cabinet.
"And an even sharper light was cast on the wider systemic prejudices and injustices that plague our institutions, and specifically how they acknowledge the rights of Indigenous Australians."
Hutton says the mid-year survey confirmed an alarming trend with Australia again recorded the largest trust inequality anywhere the world.
A gap of 28 points between the trusting informed public (well-informed adults in the top income and educational brackets) versus the more cynical mass population.
She says the story of trust in Australia is now one of two divergent realities.
"While this gap is not new to Australia, it’s widening at a worrying pace," she says.
"For our institutions it brings an additional layer of complexity as they try to share information and communicate effectively with two distinct audiences: one that trusts, and one that doesn’t.
"In a world still reeling from the crisis of pandemic, failure to navigate these waters adroitly can translate to devastating, real-life impact – for example, consider how rampant vaccine disinformation has disproportionately impacted uptake among economic and racial minority groups."
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