Davos, Switzerland - Trust in governments worldwide took a dive last year, with Washington’s reputation a notable casualty as President Barack Obama grappled with a budget showdown, the eavesdropping crisis and a botched roll-out of Obamacare.
Just 37 percent of college-educated adults told the Edelman Trust Barometer that they trusted the US government – 16 points down on a year earlier and 7 points below the global average.
The US was not quite at the bottom of the heap as levels of trust in governments in some western European countries, including France, Spain and Italy, were even lower, but the scale of the American decline was particularly dramatic.
The mood of disillusionment was amplified because it came off a brief phase of enthusiasm for the role of the state in preventing economic Armageddon, said Richard Edelman, the head of US public relations firm Edelman, which commissioned the study.
“In 2008 and 2009, it was a case of government to the rescue and everybody said government saved the day. That raised expectations – but then you get crushed,” he said.
In the case of the US, three big negatives have weighed heavily in the past year: the impasse between Democrats and Republicans over the budget; the crisis over spying revelations by former US contractor Edward Snowden; and the fumbled roll-out of the Obamacare health-care system due to technical problems with a federal website.
“How does a computer system not work for health care? That is just a competence question,” Edelman said.
The results of the annual trust survey were released yesterday before being presented at the January 22 to 25 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.
As a result of the loss of faith in the state around the world, the gap in trust between government and business has widened to a record level, with corporations now enjoying a 14-point advantage.
That gap was especially large in India, as it heads into elections amid a wave of corruption scandals, and in Brazil, where alleged corruption, bus fare hikes and high public spending for the 2014 World Cup have fuelled anger.
Trust in business overall stabilised at 58 percent. But while confidence in some industry sectors is high, there are still widespread demands for more regulation of financial services, energy and food.
Small businesses are more trusted across the globe, and there are notable regional variations, with companies based in the main emerging markets suffering a big trust deficit.
The survey quizzed 6 000 educated, relatively affluent people aged 25 to 64 in 27 countries, from October 16 to November 29 last year. – Reuters