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Mexico (and China): Topping off the Trusters

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There is a popular saying in Mexico that goes, “Como México, no hay dos,” which loosely translated means, “Like Mexico, there is no other.” And the same can be said for this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer findings in Mexico, except, perhaps when it’s like China.

Much has been written about the competition – and differences – between Mexico and China on the world stage, especially as Mexico continues to become an increasingly attractive destination for investment, manufacturing and logistics. And while it is true that these two economic engines share little in the way of culture, social norms or politics, they do share one important similarity: both countries are consistently more trusting in their institutions than each of their respective regions and, in fact, more than the rest of the world.

In this year’s Barometer, the two countries share a number of key trust behaviors. Among them:

  • Both rank within the top five countries in overall trust in their institutions, with China taking the top spot (average trust score of 80) and Mexico close behind in the fourth spot (average trust score of 68).
  • While both countries are very trusting, the same cannot be said about other countries’ trust in companies based in China and Mexico – with both being at the bottom of the list – only 31 percent of Barometer respondents trust Mexico-based companies and only 35 percent trust China-based companies.
  • Mexico and China are also the two highest trusters of NGOs in the world – China at 81 percent and Mexico at 83 percent.
  • And older informed publics (ages 35-64) in both Mexico and China are amongst the only countries surveyed showing increases in their level of trust in banks since 2008 , with China showing an 11-point increase and Mexico posting a ten-point jump.

Yet for all these similarities in how these very different countries trust their institutions, there is one profound difference between them and that puts them at opposite extremes of the trust spectrum: Trust in Government. For its part, Mexico has the widest gap in the world between how much business and government are trusted, with a 41 point gap between trust in business and trust in government. In stark contrast, China has a trust level in government of 81 percent and 74 percent in business.

And while Mexico posts marginal increases in how much both informed and general publics trust business, the government, NGOs and the media, trust in business leaders and government leaders among the general public posted marked decreases from last year’s results, with the number of respondents who say they do not trust these leaders at all to tell the truth increasing by 20 percentage points for business leaders and by 14 percentage points for government leaders.

While banks were viewed as performing well  in providing easier access to home mortgages and protecting the privacy of customers’ personal information, the actions of certain institutions coupled with the actions of some of its leaders impacted trust in the human element of the sector. As for government, a national election and a new administration traditionally increase trust in any market and Mexico was no different, but the voters’ view of politicians and their individual actions impacted their view of leadership.

And the same can be said for the business sector – people are saying, “We trust the sector to do what is right, but we don’t necessarily trust individual companies or executives to do so.”

So what do institutions in Mexico, and in other markets around the world, need to do to continue enjoying high levels of trust and what do their leaders need to do to close the gap in trust between institutions and leadership?

  • They need to recognize that the old authority structures are evolving and that they need to evolve with them. Today, we are seeing a much more diffuse, shared authority structure. Top-down no longer is viable.
  • What worked in the past won’t necessarily work moving forward. Today, we are seeing trust impacted by multiple factors –some 16 behaviors that are necessary to create trust today.
  • The gaps between institutional trust and leadership trust as well as between expected behaviors and actual behaviors creates an enormous opportunity in Mexico – and in markets with similar trust behavior – an opportunity that becomes more important as Mexico’s role in the Americas becomes more prominent.
  • Trust continues to be a fragile – but critical – asset that needs to be nurtured, protected and continually fostered since institutions and businesses can never rest on their laurels.

So while “Como México, no hay dos” continues to be inherently true, it is equally true that every market included in this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer has its own unique trust behaviors. Yet, no matter their differences, each can benefit from learning from this year’s Barometer on how to increase trust in their key institutions… as well as, of course, from each other.

Gail Becker is chair of Canada, Latin America and U.S. Western Region. Tim Scerba is director general, Mexico.

Image by Martha Silva.

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