A Moment of Reckoning for Business as it Must Deliver  
On the Promise of a Stakeholder Approach  

May 5, 2020 – NEW YORK – The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring update: Trust and the COVID-19 Pandemic reveals that trust in government (65 percent) surged 11 points since January making it the most trusted institution for the first time. Government trust increased by double digits in six of the 11 markets surveyed, including the UK (24 points), Canada (20 points), Germany (19 points) and South Korea (16 points).

Respondents want government to lead in all areas of the pandemic response: containing the pandemic (73 percent); helping people cope with the pandemic (72 percent); informing the public (72 percent); providing economic relief and support (86 percent); and getting the country back to normal (79 percent).

A majority (61 percent) are also more willing to give up their personal health and location tracking information to the government than normal in order to help contain the spread of the virus. Nearly three in four feel pandemic-related restrictions on their freedom of movement are now entirely reasonable and appropriate. Where trust in the federal government is lacking, local government is more trusted with the biggest gaps occurring in the U.S. (20 points), Japan (15 points) and France (11 points). Trust in government leaders has soared by 13 points to 61 percent making them more trusted than CEOs (58 percent).

“Faced with one of the biggest health and financial crises in history, people are turning to their governments for leadership and hope,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “The speed and scale of the lockdowns, the brave performance of the public health services and the extent of public expenditure to support the private sector have shown government taking quick decisive action. This is a stunning turnaround for government which has always languished at or near the bottom of the trust hierarchy.”

Despite a four-point uptick in trust in business (62 percent) and several high-profile actions taken by companies and CEOs to aid those in need, the study reveals several areas of concern for both.

Most respondents believe business is either doing poorly, mediocre or completely failing at putting people before profits (50 percent), implementing safety measures to protect workers and customers (41 percent) and helping smaller suppliers and business customers stay in business by extending them credit or giving them more time to pay (46 percent).

Less than one in three respondents believe that CEOs and business leaders (29 percent) are doing an outstanding job meeting the demands placed on them by the pandemic compared to scientists (53 percent) and national government leaders (47 percent). National government leaders (53 percent) and scientists (52 percent) are also more trusted than CEOs and business leaders (34 percent) to develop new policies to be better prepared for a future crisis.

“Business has been drafting for the past three months as government has led the first leg of this race,” said Edelman. “Now it’s time for business to sprint to the front of the pack as the focus shifts to reopening the economy. This is a moment of reckoning for business and the promise of a stakeholder approach must now be delivered by filling their supply chains with small businesses and the retaining and reskilling of workers.”

Most respondents favor a measured and cautious approach to reopening the economy and businesses. Sixty-seven percent believe that we must prioritize saving lives over jobs, and 75 percent want CEOs to be conservative when getting their companies back to normal operations, even if it means waiting longer to reopen workplaces.

The pandemic has intensified existing perceptions of the system being unfair, fears of job loss and lack of quality information, while adding concern for personal safety. Two-thirds (67 percent) believe that those with less education, less money and fewer resources are being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic. More than one in two worry about job loss due to the pandemic and not being able to find a new one for a very long time.

People believe it is vital for business and CEOs to partner with government in order to shape a better future instead of working to keep government regulation to a minimum. A majority (68 percent) want CEOs to proactively engage in conversations with government to regulate their companies in ways that protect people and the planet, while giving them the flexibility to innovate, respond to a crisis and meet growing needs for their products or services.

“Another crucial test for business will be its willingness to work with government,” said Kirsty Graham, CEO of Edelman Public Affairs. “For several industries it will be a necessity such as tech on tracking and tracing, pharma around testing and treating and hospitality on re-opening. But all sectors of business will need to partner with government on the policy challenges that the pandemic has created. That’s what’s expected.”

Other key findings from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update: Trust and the COVID-19 Pandemic include:

  • Republicans (59 percent) are far more trusting than Democrats (40 percent) of the federal government, but both sides of the aisle place a lot of faith in local government, 65 percent and 73 percent, respectively. Democrats (65 percent) are almost twice as more trusting of the media than Republicans (37 percent).
  • The search for reliable and accurate information related to the pandemic has driven trust in news sources to an all-time high with traditional media (+7 points) and owned (+8 points) seeing the biggest gains. Traditional media (69 percent) leads the way as most trusted, followed by search engines (64 percent), owned media (52 percent) and social media (45 percent).
  • Concerns about fake news still loom large; 67 percent worry that there is a lot of fake news and false information being spread about the virus.
  • Respondents in seven of the 11 markets surveyed believe their local NGOs are not prepared to deal with the crisis, including Germany, the U.S. and Canada.
  • After nearly a decade as the most trusted industry sector, technology (74 percent) has fallen to the third spot behind Food & Beverage (76 percent) and Healthcare (76 percent), which experienced nine-point and eight-point jumps respectively.

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 the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for PR; Advertising Age’s 2019 A-List; the Holmes Report’s 2018 Global Digital Agency of the Year; and, five times, Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work. Since our founding in 1952, we have remained an independent, family-run business. Edelman owns specialty companies Edelman Intelligence (research) and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, lifestyle).

About The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update:
Trust and the Covid-19 Pandemic

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update: Trust and the Covid-19 Pandemic is an update to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer. The survey was conducted by Edelman Intelligence between April 15 and April 23, and sampled more than 13,200 respondents in 11 markets: Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, S. Korea, U.K. and U.S. 1,200 people were surveyed in each market, 100 of which were informed public. All informed public respondents met the following criteria: aged 25-64, college-educated; household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or watch business/news media at least several times a week; follow public policy issues in the news at least several times a week. For more information, please click here.