Research Exposes Political Fault Lines Around the Acceptance of Innovation

January 14, 2024 – NEW YORK – The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a rift between innovation and society that has become the new factor causing further polarization. Respondents, by nearly a two-to-one margin, feel innovation is being poorly managed; this is true across age groups, income levels, and gender, and in both developed and developing countries people are more likely to say innovation is poorly managed than well managed. Innovations have also become politicized, especially in Western democracies where right leaning individuals are far more likely than those on the left to reject them; the biggest differences between those on the right and left are in the U.S. (41 points), Australia (23 points), Germany (20 points), and Canada (18 points).

“Innovation is accelerating and should be a growth enabler, but it will be stymied if business doesn’t pay as much attention to acceptance as it does research and development,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “More than two-thirds of our respondents who say innovation is poorly managed believe society is changing too quickly and not in ways that benefit ‘people like me’ (69 percent). The mass-class divide, the huge imbalance in trust between business and government and the infodemic have been the forces behind the decline in trust and polarization. Fear of innovation has now become the fourth log on the populism fire.”

Business has the best opportunity to reverse this trend because it is the most trusted institution, both in general and when it comes to introducing new innovations into society. But it must focus on explaining the impact of innovation and its net positive for society and not just investors. But it can’t act alone. Over the last decade the Trust Barometer has seen a 15-point increase (45 percent to 60 percent) in people saying that business and government partnering on developing and implementing technology-led innovations would increase their trust in business. Nearly two thirds expect CEOs to manage changes occurring in society, not just those occurring in their business (62 percent), and around 8 in 10 employees say it’s important for their CEO to speak publicly about job skills of the future (82 percent), the ethical use of technology (79 percent) and automation’s impact on jobs (78 percent).

Many believe that science is losing its independence: to Government, funders, and the political process. In the U.S., two thirds believe science has become politicized (67 percent) and in China, three quarters of respondents say that Government and organizations that fund research have too much influence on how science is done (75 percent). When people feel that innovation is poorly managed, they are more likely to say that the system is biased in favor of the rich than those who feel innovation is managed well (82 percent vs 53 percent). This has led to a dispersion of authority, where people view “someone like me” (74 percent) on par with scientists and experts (74 percent) in terms of who they can trust to tell them the truth about new innovations and technologies.

“Against the backdrop of the biggest global election year in history with more than 50 elections slated to take place, trust is under siege from a number of forces,” said Kirsty Graham, President, Global Practices and Sectors at Edelman. “Concern over the impacts of innovation and those driving it have led to greater suspicion of economic and political systems. Institutions must work together to help address these concerns to allow a pathway for continued innovation and progress.”

Other key findings from the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

  • The UK (39) is among the least trusting countries according to the Trust Index, and none of the other G7 countries are trusting: Canada (53); Italy (50); France (47) U.S. (46); Germany (45); Japan (39).
  • Fear of an information war (61 percent) jumped by six points from last year, the biggest increase among societal fears. The report also reveals an increase in the belief that societal leaders, including journalists (64 percent); government leaders (63 percent); and business leaders (61 percent); are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false.
  • Government (51 percent) is now distrusted in 17 of the 28 countries surveyed, including the U.S. (40 percent), Germany (42 percent) and the UK (30 percent, down 7 points). Media (50 percent) remains the least trusted institution globally and is distrusted in 15 of 28 countries including the U.S. (39 percent), Japan (33 percent), and the UK (31 percent, down 6 points).
  • Trust remains local with ‘My employer’ (79 percent trust among employees) once again the most trusted institution and trusted in every country surveyed aside from South Korea (49 percent). ‘My CEO’ (69 percent trust among employees) is also more trusted than CEOs in general (51 percent).
  • Government leaders (42 percent) are among the least trusted societal leaders, with journalists (49 percent) and CEOs (51 percent) only slightly more trusted. Scientists (77 percent), teachers (74 percent), ‘my CEO’ (69 percent among employees), citizens of ‘my country’ (63 percent) and ‘my neighbors’ (62 percent) are trusted.
  • The report finds huge gaps between trust in the businesses that make up industry sectors and industry innovations, including a 26-point gap between trust in businesses in the Technology sector (76 percent) vs trust in AI (50 percent); a 23-point gap between trust in businesses in the Healthcare sector (73 percent) vs trust in gene-based medicine (50 percent); and trust in businesses in the Food & Beverage sector (72 percent) vs trust in GMO foods (32 percent).
  • Over the last 10 years, trust has declined significantly in companies headquartered in the largest exporting nations, including China (from 2014 to 2024, down 3 points to 30 percent); the U.S. (down 9 points to 53 percent); and Germany (down 9 points to 62 percent). Even with a nine-point decline over the past decade, Germany (62 percent trust) remains the second most trusted foreign brand behind Canada (64 percent). Brand China (30 percent) remains among the least trusted along with India (32 percent). 

About Edelman       
Edelman is a global communications firm that partners with businesses and organizations to evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. Our 6,000 people in more than 60 offices deliver communications strategies that give our clients the confidence to lead and act with certainty, earning the trust of their stakeholders. Our honors include PRWeek’s Global Agency of the Year (2023); PRovoke’s Global Agency of the Year (2022); Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards for PR (2016) and the Entertainment Lions for Sport (2021); a Gold Lion in the Brand Experience & Activation category (2023); a Gold Lion in the Sustainable Development Goals category (2022); Cannes Lions Independent Agency of the Year for the Entertainment Track (2021); Cannes Lions Co-Independent Agency of the Year for the Good Track (2022); and Advertising Age’s 2019 A-List. Since our founding in 1952, we have remained an independent, family-run business. Edelman owns specialty companies Edelman Data x Intelligence (research, data), Edelman Smithfield (financial communications), Edelman Global Advisory (advisory), and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, lifestyle).

About the Edelman Trust Barometer       
The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 24th annual trust and credibility survey. The research was produced by the Edelman Trust Institute and consisted of 30-minute online interviews conducted between November 3 and November 22, 2023. The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer online survey sampled more than 32,000 respondents across 28 countries. Published every January, the report covers a range of timely and important societal indicators of trust among business, media, government and NGOs, shaping conversation and setting the agenda for the year ahead. For more information, visit

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