The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a new paradox at the heart of society. Rapid innovation offers the promise of a new era of prosperity, but instead risks exacerbating trust issues, leading to further societal instability and political polarization.
In a year where half the global population can vote in new leaders, the acceptance of innovation is essential to the success of our society. While people agree that scientists are essential to the acceptance of innovation, many are concerned that politics has too much influence on science. This perception is contributing to the decline of trust in the institutions responsible for steering us through change and towards a more prosperous future.
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The decline of authority
Trust in companies from global powers is in decline, worry over societal threats and establishment leaders misleading us is growing, while peers are as trusted as scientists for information on new innovations.
Innovation is on the ballot
Respondents see science as under political pressure, but feel government lacks the competence to regulate innovation effectively, so strong leadership is needed to move society towards acceptance.
A reset for science in society
Science has a communications problem that can be improved with better messaging, more transparency, and an explanation of its impact on regular people.
Restoring trust in the promise of innovation
Respondents are more likely to embrace an innovation if they are confident that it will lead to a better future.
Business is trusted to make sure innovations are safe, understood & accessible
Most institutions are not trusted to introduce innovations to society. While business leads, it’s still just below 60 percent (Trust is 60 percent or above). Media is actively distrusted. And there is less trust across institutions among those with low income.
Acceptance of innovation is at stake
Respondents by nearly a two-to-one margin believe innovation is poorly managed (insufficient government regulation, lack of trust in traditional leaders, suspicion of science’s independence from politics and money). Respondents need to know that the inventions have been evaluated by scientists and ethicists, are effectively regulated, and feel in control over the impact on their lives.
4 Ways to Restore Trust in the Promise of Innovation
1. Implementation is as important as invention
Mismanaged innovations are as likely to ignite backlash as advance society. With breakthroughs like AI, vaccines, and green energy on the line, explaining the science and managing impacts is essential.
2. Business must partner for change
Business is most trusted to introduce innovation into society, with an emphasis on partnering with government. CEOs need to safeguard jobs and take a stand on emerging ethical concerns.
3. Science must integrate with society
Scientists are still trusted—but increasingly subject to public scrutiny. To build trust in expert recommendations, explain the research, engage in dialogue, and harness peer voices as advocates.
4. Give me control over my future
When people feel in control over how innovations affect their lives, they are more likely to embrace them, not resist them. Listen for concerns, be open to questions.
Trust is based first on economic prosperity, evidenced by the fact that developing countries have higher trust levels than developed countries. Innovation can drive growth for all levels of society, resulting in higher trust in institutions.
Society is changing too quickly ⟲
A majority of respondents who believe that innovation is poorly managed think that society is changing too quickly and not in ways that benefit people like me.
Peers on par with scientists ⟲
Seventy-four percent say they trust scientists and peers, equally, for the truth about innovations; however, peers are more trusted than scientists among those who think innovation is poorly managed.
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The global launch event for the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer took place during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman, presented this year’s findings, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Gillian Tett, Provost, King’s College, Cambridge & Columnist and Editorial Board Member, Financial Times; with Srikant Datar, George F. Baker Professor of Administration, Dean of The Faculty, Harvard Business School; Doug Peterson, CEO, S&P Global; Thomas Siebel, Chairman & CEO, C3 AI; and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Former Prime Minister of Denmark.
Methodology The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 24th annual 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. Learn more >