SXSW Community Counters Global Trust Trends: High Trust in Media, Wary of Future Technology

SXSW and Edelman Partner to Assess State of Trust Across Media, Government and Business

An Edelman Trust Barometer flash poll of SXSW attendees shows a high level of trust in the media and lower levels of trust in future technologies, which bucks the global trends reported earlier this year in the annual report.

While trust in the media is declining around the globe, 61 percent of the SXSW community said they trust the media, compared to 43 percent globally. Further, only 14 percent believe the institution of media is broken beyond repair, 25 points less than the global audience. The SXSW community is more trusting of traditional media (84 percent trust vs. 62 percent globally) and less trusting of platforms like search engines (44 percent trusted vs. 61 percent globally) and social media (20 percent trusted vs. 40 percent globally).

“Higher levels of trust in media from the SXSW community indicate a greater sensibility for credible news sources which is a good sign for the industry,” said Jess Clifton, U.S. Head of Digital for Edelman. “But skepticism from this very plugged-in community about government, business, social media and technology serves as a challenge to leaders, businesses and innovators alike.”

The survey results showed that only 31 percent of the SXSW community trusts businesses, which is 21 percentage points lower than the global audience (52 percent). And while they distrust business, they trust government even less with only 26 percent reporting trust in government, which is 17 points less than global respondents.

The community also reported lower levels of trust in specific technologies – a potential warning sign from insiders on the cutting edge:

  • 27 percent trust in blockchain technology (22 percentage points less than global respondents)
  • 33 percent trust in self-driving vehicles (17 points less)
  • 33 percent trust virtual reality platforms (22 points less)
  • 35 percent trust the sharing economy businesses model (17 points less)
  • 37 percent trust the Internet of Things (26 points less)
  • 40 percent trust mobile/smart phone app developers (27 points less)

“The SXSW community is made of visionaries, creatives and change makers, so we have a history of challenging the status quo,” said Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive. “We see this data as not only reflective of optimism about our role in improving society, but as a potential indicator of broader future trends.”

While trust remains low around the globe, the SXSW community has high expectations to be a force for social good while positively impacting the world. Of those who consume news weekly and share or post content several times a month, 71 percent say they do so because they feel a responsibility to correct lies and misinformation and 75 percent say they do so to bring about positive changes in the world.

A live discussion of these results will take place today at the SXSW festival in Austin for SXSW badgeholders, via a panel of experts including legendary journalist and News and Guts CEO Dan Rather, WP Engine Chairwoman and CEO Heather Brunner and Edelman’s U.S. Head of Digital Jess Clifton. Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, will moderate the panel.

Other key findings from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer SXSW flash poll include:

  • The community considers itself highly media literate, with 87 percent stating that they always make sure that the news and information they are sharing is true, and involved, with 90 percent considering themselves “engaged” compared with 50 percent globally.
  • When asked about what defines “the media in general,” the SXSW community responded that it meant journalists (98 percent) and news apps (42 percent) over social media and search, indicating this community may have a clearer understanding of a platform versus a publisher than global respondents.
  • While the SXSW community trusts the media, they express grave concern about fake news, with 9 in 10 reporting worry about false information or fake news being used as a weapon, which is 21 points higher than global averages and higher than any individual country.


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 South by Southwest

SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together. SXSW 2018 will take place March 9-18, 2018.