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Australians among world’s ‘distrusting’ nations, but we have faith in news media

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer has revealed a significant rise in news engagement and low trust in social media.

The survey, conducted across 27 countries, looked at the opinions of 33,000 people aged 18+.

“Overall, the world has 64 per cent trust in traditional media and only 44 percent in social media. In Europe and the US, trust in social media is down to 34 per cent.”

“73 per cent of people surveyed worry about false information or fake news being used as a weapon.”

Overall there has been a modest rise in trust in institutions. NGOs and business are sitting at 56 per cent trusted, and government and media are sitting at 47 per cent trusted, all up 3 percentage points year-on-year (except NGOs, which has only risen 2 points).



The report also examined the difference in results between genders, finding that women are more likely than men to “consume news about weekly or more AND share or post content several times a month or more”. For media, men’s trust is at 50 while women’s is at 45.

Another divide occurs between the mass population, and those described as the “informed public”. The latter, making up 16 per cent of the total population, are people who meet four specific criteria: aged 25-64, university-educated, in the top 25 per cent of household income per age group in each market, and report significant media consumption and engagement in public policy and business news.



The division into the “informed” and “mass” populations leads to a so-called “trust gap”: the informed public is generally more trusting in institutions such as media and the government. 2019 data shows that the gap has returned to a record high of 16 points, as seen in 2017. In 2012 the trust gap was only 9 points.



For Australia specifically, the trust gap is 13 points between our informed and mass populations. Also, Australians’ trust in institutions overall has increased 8 points to 48 but remains under 50, making us a “distrusting” nation.

Australia is not alone in being skeptical of institutions: the world has moved its trust average into neutral territory of 52 points. China is the most trusting nation at 72 points, and Russia is the least trusting at 29 points.

NewsMediaWork CEO Peter Miller reviewed the report, describing it as “required reading”.

“Edelman have been tracking trust since 2012 and we are glad they stuck at it,” he said.

“For starters, the outcomes of this global study reinforce key findings from our own Galaxy studies. For example, by a hefty margin people trust traditional media and distrust social media. There are big implications for advertisers in these findings.”

“Edelman ploughs new ground to with its finding that engagement in news content has risen especially amongst news consumers news amplifiers- those that interact with news content by sharing or posting.”

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