The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer shows trust across institutions globally continues to decline and that today’s pace of innovation is perceived as happening too fast. Nationally, 51 percent are uneasy at the speed of this change, but in California, where innovation is king, only 33 percent of residents feel the same way. Despite being less trusting of institutions compared to the U.S. as a whole, business remains the most trusted institution in California, and the only area with increasing trust year-over-year.
From an industry perspective, technology is viewed as the biggest current (65 percent) and future (72 percent) driver of the state’s economy, with start-ups and the sharing economy seen as adding the most fuel to the economic fire. At the same time, nearly 80 percent of Californians report the technology industry is having a positive impact on communities.
Although Californians are largely positive towards the technology industry, the 2015 California survey results include some speed bumps on the horizon. In particular, there is a perception gap between certain groups of California residents: those who are college-educated, older (34+) and have higher incomes ($50,000+/year) are more likely to believe technology is having a positive impact on the economy and their community than those without a college degree or who earn less. A more jarring difference can be found between men and women’s attitudes towards the technology industry, especially in the Bay Area, with men 21 percent more likely than women to believe that technology companies are benefiting the communities in which they operate. In addition, barriers such as the high costs of living and high taxes are called out as specific impediments to economic growth and may signal a looming threat to statewide development and innovation.
Regarding government, Californians are less likely than Americans overall to argue for more regulations to manage business change. But if pressed on how they think the public and private sector should interact, they are divided: with 52 percent saying government should set ground rules to ensure businesses in emerging industries operate ethically and 48 percent saying government should adjust laws and regulations to reflect today’s business reality. Meanwhile, two-thirds want government to actively encourage innovation and 61 percent prefer a carrot and the stick approach, saying government should offer tax incentives for businesses as well as enact laws and regulations to safeguard consumers.
So what does this mean for California’s business leaders? Californians are optimistic about the societal good associated with innovation and the majority (52 percent) believe businesses can be trusted to innovate in a beneficial way. But in order to continue being trusted by all stakeholders, business and governmental leaders must work together to ensure everyone, no matter income level or demographic, feels the positive effects of (technology) innovation – both for themselves as individuals and for their communities.
Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer California survey was conducted online by Edelman Berland January 24, 2015 – February 2, 2015 with 2,063 interviews statewide among California adults. The survey has a margin of error of ±2.2 percent.
Ravi Moorthy is executive vice president, Bay Area Corporate group head.
Deborah Kazenelson Deane is executive vice president, Los Angeles Corporate group head.
Lisa Page is senior vice president, Bay Area Public Affairs lead.