DAVOS, Switzerland – A year on from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, trust in U.S. institutions is down sharply despite a rebounding economy and record highs in the stock market, according to a survey by public relations firm Edelman.
In an annual assessment of trust levels around the world, the firm said Monday that trust in the U.S. has fallen precipitously in the past year, particularly among what it terms the 'informed public.' Trust in government has fallen the most but confidence in business, media and non-governmental organizations has also dropped sharply.
"What is clear is that the administration has changed the discourse," said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. "The United States is enduring an unprecedented crisis of trust."
On a scale of 0 to 100, trust among the general U.S. population fell nine points to 43, placing it in the lower quarter of Edelman's 28-country Trust Index. Among the 'informed public' — those aged 25-64 who are college-educated, at the upper end of the income distribution and report significant media consumption — it plunged 23 points to 45. That puts it at the lowest of the 28 countries surveyed, below Russia and South Africa.
Ironically, this is happening at a time when the U.S. economy is growing strongly, unemployment continues to edge lower and share prices are booming. Since Trump's inauguration, the Dow Jones industrial average has jumped by around a quarter, adding trillions of dollars to the paper worth of the United States.
Edelman said the decline in trust levels in the U.S. in the past year is even "more profound" than after the global financial crash in 2008, when the U.S. economy experienced its most pronounced recession since the 1930s and millions of people lost their jobs.
Edelman highlights the decline in faith in media, saying it is exacerbated by Trump's "discomfort" and his bypassing of traditional presidential communications with his fondness for Twitter. Media is now the least trusted institution globally, according to the survey.
"The root cause of this fall is the lack of objective facts and rational discourse," said Edelman.
One country where trust is rising is China, which now finds itself atop Edelman's Trust index for both the general population and the 'informed public.' In contrast to the U.S., faith in government is leading the overall upward trends. Joining China at the top are India, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
The online survey of 33,000 plus respondents was conducted between Oct. 13 and Nov. 16, 2017.