Research Insight

How the Informed and General Public View Trust Differently



Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer examines the opinions, attitudes and behaviors of two global groups of individuals: the general public and the informed public.

The latter group consists of adults who are college-educated, in the top 25 percent income bracket for their age group in their country, report regular media consumption and are engaged in business news and public policy. In effect, they are the world’s opinion elites.

Not surprisingly, there are myriad differences between these two audiences. First, informed publics are consistently more likely to actually have an opinion on various issues. For example, when asked whether there is too much, not enough or the right amount of government regulation of business, the proportion of informed publics who say “don’t know” is half that of the general public (6 percent of informed publics compared to 12 percent of the general public). This is consistently the case across our study.

Informed publics are not only more likely to have an opinion, but they are also more likely to trust. Across the 27 countries we surveyed this year, there is a 10-point gap between the informed public and the general public when it comes to trust in business (59 percent for informed publics against 49 percent for the general public). This gap rises to 12 points for trust in NGOs (66 percent against 54 percent).

Against this backdrop it is interesting to note where the roles are reversed and we see higher trust among the general public.

While both sets of respondents agree – globally – that government’s most important role is to protect consumers from irresponsible business practices, this view is slightly more pronounced among the general public (30 percent) than the informed public (28 percent). Conversely, the informed public is more likely than the general public to place more importance on regulating business, building infrastructure and ensuring free market access.

All of this points to the need for businesses to target their communications efforts more effectively. Different demographic groups have different wants and desires, and communications campaigns must be tailored to take this into account.

Mike Berland is the CEO of Edelman Berland, Edelman’s strategic research and analytic business.

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