Japan and The Fragility of Trust

There is little mystery behind the precipitous drop in trust in Japan. The 8.9 off-shore earthquake that hit the country in March 2011 set off a chain of events, including a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, that all but destroyed people’s trust in government, officials and five major industries. Facing one of its largest environmental and political crises ever, Japan failed to deliver the leadership and protection its people needed.

Data from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in three of the four institutions we survey — media, NGOs, and government — suffered double-digit decreases for the first time ever. As the nuclear crisis worsened, the government’s absence of leadership, and the local utility’s poor transparency revealed massive shortcomings in the command-and-control approach to communications.

Five of 11 major industry sectors saw dramatic drops. Not surprisingly, energy suffered the worst blow with a 46-point plunge in trust (and a lack of confidence in energy spread to parts of Europe and South Korea). In Japan, trust in the media industry tumbled by 21 points, while banks and financial services fell by 20 and 17 points, respectively.  The telecommunications industry in Japan experienced a 17-point decline as well, falling to 58 percent in the 2012 survey.

Trust in credible spokespeople dropped across the board. For government officials it nearly vanished, dropping from 63 percent to 8 percent. Unlike most other mature markets in which CEO credibility fell but that of regular employees rose, both took a pounding in Japan, dropping by 43 points each. Information sources are less trusted too, in particular TV, which dropped by 26 points. Both social-networking and micro-blogging sites enjoyed significant increases in the overall study, but in Japan experienced notable declines.

Full results from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer are available by reading the Executive Summary or the Global Results Presentation.

Additional insights can be found by visiting the following sections of the site: The State of TrustTrust In InstitutionsThe Path Forward.

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