Most people doubt their families will be better off in the future

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a collapse for economic optimism

Most people doubt their families will be better off in the future
Steve Randall

The world is becoming less trusting of institutions that impact our wealth and wider lives according to a new report.

The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer polled thousands of people in 28 countries globally to gauge their trust in government, business, media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

It found that economic optimism has slumped from 50% to 40% in a year with half of the countries surveyed showing a year-over-year double-digit decline in the belief that their families will be better off in five years’ time.

Among Canadians who participated in the poll, just 28% believe their family fortunes are set to improve in the next five years, a decline of 6 percentage points year-over-year.

Not one developed nation has over 36% of its people confident that their family will be better off in five years, and Canada joins the 24 out of 28 countries surveyed that dropped to all-time lows in optimism including the US (36%), the UK (23%), Germany (15%) and Japan (9%). 

The survey discovered that personal economic fears such as job loss (89 percent) and inflation (74%) are on par with urgent societal fears like climate change (76%), nuclear war (72%) and food shortages (67%).

Wealthier more trusting

The report found that those with higher incomes are more likely to trust institutions than those with low incomes.

Many countries appear severely polarized with respondents believing that their differences cannot be overcome. Countries including the US, Colombia, Argentina, South Africa, Sweden and Spain are in this situation.

“We are in a period of huge systemic change in a multi-polar world, with divisive forces fanning economic grievance,” said Dave Samson, Edelman’s global VC of corporate affairs. “If neglected, the result will be increased levels of polarization, slowing economic growth, deeper discrimination, and an inherent inability to solve problems. CEOs, and the companies they lead, must play a central role in addressing these issues and in helping restore economic optimism.”

Business seen as ethical

Business leaders will be pleased to find that the report shows that business is now the only global institution to be both competent and ethical.

It stands 53 points ahead of government on competence and 30 points ahead for ethics.

“The increased perception of business as ethical brings with it higher than ever expectations of CEOs to be a leading voice on societal issues,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “By a six-to-one margin, on average, respondents want more societal involvement by business on issues such as climate change, economic inequality, and workforce reskilling. But business must tread carefully, more than half (52%) of our respondents do not believe business can avoid being politicized when it addresses contentious societal issues.”

Canada (67%) and Germany (63%) remained the two most trusted foreign brands, followed by Japan and the UK, while India and China remain the least trusted.