2018 Edelman Trust Barometer California Supplement Survey Reveals Technology as the Most Trusted Sector in California

  • Yet more than two-thirds of Bay Area residents, the home of innovation, think the tech sector has been under-regulated
  • More than 70 percent of California women believe core local industries have not done enough for gender equality at work
  • More than seven in 10 Californians believe industry can and should advocate for societal good

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer California Supplemental Survey, released today, reveals an apparent paradox between trust in the tech industry and a simultaneous desire to further regulate it.

Survey respondents voiced an unquestionable call for business to step up activism on societal issues and proactively address its impact on society. In the tech industry specifically, 79 percent of Californians (83 percent of Bay Area residents and 77 percent of LA area residents) believe tech companies have an obligation to speak out against policies that may hurt their employees or customers, yet 66 percent say the tech industry is reactive, rather than proactive.  

The annual statewide survey offered insight into the mood of America’s most populous state with residents weighing in on several issues impacting their lives including technology, government, the economy and the workplace. 

Within the Bay Area, the home of innovation, technology is the most trusted industry (62 percent), yet only 38 percent of those residents believe the growth of technology has benefitted them personally, underscoring the potential for the public to turn on the tech industry. In fact, 62 percent of Bay Area residents say, “the tech industry makes the wealthy even wealthier, but doesn’t really help the rest of California.” 

More than two-thirds of Bay Area residents (67%) think that the tech industry has been given too much freedom and needs more regulation. According to Bay Area respondents, these regulations should include making tech companies more financially liable for data breaches (89 percent support), taxing companies who move their manufacturing overseas (82 percent), taxing companies who replace workers with machines (66 percent), reducing the number of skilled workers from abroad (66 percent) and preventing tech monopolies (56 percent).

“In the battle to protect its license to innovate around the world, the industry must first deal with perception at home. All politics is local,” said Kristine Boyden, President of Edelman’s Western Region.

Social media, specifically, faces a distrusting public looking for the industry to step up. While 62 percent of Californians trust the tech industry, just 37 percent trust social media companies – a 25 percentage point gap. In the Bay Area, social media is even less trusted, with roughly a third (35 percent) of residents trusting the industry, making it the least trusted industry Edelman tested. Californians have a clear definition in their mind of what companies comprise the tech industry, citing Apple as the top company that comes to mind, followed by Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, with social media companies far behind.

More than three in four Californians (77 percent) blame social media for the problem of fake news and by a 58- to 42-point margin (61 to 39 in the Bay Area), Californians maintain that social media spreads misinformation rather than helps people become more informed on the issues. Given this, it is not surprising that more than seven in 10 support a variety of regulations, including 86 percent supporting requirements of the same standards for political ads on social media as on TV, 78 percent supporting fines on social media companies that host, public, or repeat fake news, 75 percent supporting fines against social media companies when people use their platforms to violate the law, and 74 percent supporting a requirement that social media companies review all content posted on their platform for accuracy.

In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, more than 70 percent of California women believe the media, entertainment, and technology industries have not done enough to improve gender equality and fair treatment in the workplace. One-third of California women (32 percent) reported that they had been sexually harassed at work, with 38 percent having experienced unfair treatment at work because of their gender. That number goes up significantly for Bay Area women (46 percent) and California’s college-educated women (49 percent).

According to Edelman’s survey, 65 percent of respondents said that women in positions of power are more trustworthy voices than men, a seven-percentage point increase in the advantage for women since 2017. The perception that women in power are more truthful than men holds across both genders, with 52 percent of men and 77 percent of women citing female leaders as more trustworthy.

“Clear actions, grounded in well-articulated values, are a must for companies to build trust from the inside out. Beginning with their own employees, then shifting toward the communities in which they work and into society at large, there is both expectation and opportunity for business to lead.” said Stacey Zolt Hara, Managing Director of Corporate and Public Affairs for Edelman Bay Area.

Seventy-one percent of Californians (77 percent Bay Area, 70 percent LA) report that the cost and availability of housing is a “very serious” concern, far outpacing the 43 percent who consider the lack of good paying jobs a very serious concern. More than half of Californians (57 percent) said that they don’t believe that their children will have a better life than they do. And because of the high cost of living, Edelman found that there has been an increase among millennials (58 percent) and parents (65 percent) who are considering leaving California, up seven and 12 percentage points respectively in the last year.

About Edelman

Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm that partners with many of the world’s largest and emerging businesses and organizations, helping them evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. Edelman was awarded the Grand Prix Cannes Lion for PR in 2014; six Cannes Lions in 2015; and the Grand Prix in the Titanium category in 2016. The firm was named “2016 Global Agency of the Year” by the Holmes Report, and one of Advertising Age’s “Agencies to Watch” in 2014. In 2015, Edelman was among Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” for the fourth time. Edelman owns specialty firms Edelman Intelligence (research) and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, experiential), a joint venture with United Talent Agency.

About the Edelman Trust Barometer

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer online survey sampled over 33,000 general population respondents, including an oversample of 6,200 informed public respondents across 28 markets. 

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer California Supplemental Survey, a deep dive into the attitudes and perceptions of Californians, conducted by Edelman Intelligence, surveyed 1,502 general population California adults statewide, including 500 in the Bay Area and 500 in the LA metro area. The margin of error statewide is ±2.4% and ±4.4% in the Bay Area and the LA area. Interviews were conducted online January 12-22, 2018.  The results were weighted to the Census to be representative of the CA adult population.