Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Loss of Trust

I had a chance recently to attend a presentation by someone involved in the Edelman Trust Baromer annual studies. (You can read a version of the presentation from their website here.) It's a global study in which they ask samples of people in many countries around the world whether they trust various groups and institutions. Trust is defined as answering positively the question, "Do you expect [X] to do the right thing?" with X being filled with various people and groups: Government, regulators, business, NGOs, your employer, journalists, people like you, technical experts, etc.

They use the results of this survey to advice organizations on how to reach people through trusted channels: Should you try to be endorsed by academic experts or get social media personalities to endorse your product?

One of the things that apparently stood out in their research this year, however, was a massive collapse in trust among respondents in the US. They divide their sample into two groups: general population and "informed opinion", the latter group defined as meeting the following four criteria:
Ages 25-64

College educated

In top 25% of household income per age group in each market

Report significant media consumption and engagement in business news
What they found is that this "informed" group within the US saw a 23 point decline in their trust index, taking the US to being the country in which this fairly elite internal group has the least trust. In what? In everything. The index is compiled based on trust scores across all sorts of institutions: business, experts, the media, academics, the government, friends, etc.
Among the general population in the US there was also a decline in trust, but it was only nine points, and interestingly the trust that group had was already fairly low, so while the decline in trust among the "informed opinion" group was much larger, they still have slightly more trust than the general population does.

You can imagine how this would be the case, what with an unusually contentious election followed by a cultural meltdown, particularly among the various sectors of more elite opinion who never believed that someone like Trump could win.

Another interesting detail related to politics: trust in government fell 22% among Hillary Clinton supporters since the election. However, this doesn't mean that they now trust the government less than Trump supporters. It means that now the two groups are tied: 35% of Hillary voters now trust the government, which is exactly the same low number of Trump voters who trust the government. (slide 12 of the above linked presentation)

One final thing that interested me in the presentation (which doesn't appear in the version on their website) had to do with how people define "people like me", which is a group that most people say they trust a fair amount. People were asked what characteristics defined someone as being "like me".

The most often cited elements of being "like me" were:

- Shares my beliefs and vales: 63%
- Shares my interests or passions: 55%
- Shares a relationship with me (relative, friend, etc.): 46%

At the bottom of the list were:

- Lives in my neighborhood: 23%
- Shares my age, gender, race: 22%

The speaker said that the divergence between those top and bottom forms of identification had been widening in recent years, with people putting more weight on shared beliefs and interests and less on where they live and shared demographics. That struck me as fitting with the seeming increase in polarization in society. I'm certainly no different. I have a greater immediate sense of affinity with someone a thousand miles away who I talk to online and learn shares my beliefs than I do with someone at my own parish who may not.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I think it is noteworthy that, in this time of increased tribal rhetoric, people are not increasing their trust in their prescribed tribes.