If we said the last few years have been a little tumultuous, you might nominate us for the understatement of the decade. Between the COVID pandemic, rising inflation, civil unrest, multiple domestic mass-casualty incidents, and threats of nuclear war with Russia, it feels like our world is becoming more chaotic. We've often wondered if this has led to a measurable increase in distrust for institutions such as government, public services, and big business. Ipsos, a market research and consulting firm, has conducted a report known as the Global Trustworthiness Monitor that seeks to answer this question — how much do people trust the government?
This Ipsos study was conducted in June-July 2021. It analyzed responses from 21,503 adults, ages 18-74, in 29 countries around the world. These individuals were asked a series of questions regarding their level of trust in their countries' governments, public services (emergency services, schools, courts, etc.), and various business categories within the private sector.
The infographic below shows a top-level summary of the results, with horizontal placement representing trust in government, and vertical placement representing trust in public services:
As you can see, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Japan all have relatively high trust in public services but limited trust in government. Several South American and Eastern European nations have low trust in both sectors, while Germany, the Netherlands, India, and Malaysia ranked trust highly in both sectors. However, the study notes that the respondents in some of these countries — including India and Malaysia — are “more urban and educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens.” In other words, they may report above-average trust for the government because they're living a relatively comfortable and successful lifestyle.
Here's another interesting graph from the study. Although average trust for public services has remained relatively stable, average trust for the government actually rose in 2021. (Yes, we're surprised to hear that too.) Ipsos speculates that this may have been a byproduct of a “rally round the flag” effect in many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is “something that has also been seen at previous times of crisis.” These increases were noted in both the U.S. and Canada.
While overall trust rose slightly in 2021, this data shows that nearly 75% of those who answered this question still don't trust the government.
Here's a recap of some reasons surveyed individuals distrust the government. Notably, a strong majority of respondents believe their government does not have good intentions, is not open and transparent, and would try to take advantage of its power.
Now let's look at the stats on a country-by-country basis. These graphs show whether surveyed individuals believe the government and media are “reliable/keep their promises.”
We found it interesting that users in China — a country that has been called “one of the world’s most restrictive media environments” due to large-scale censorship — reported extremely high trust in state-controlled media outlets. There appears to be no data on China's trust for its government, possibly because users would be concerned for their safety if they answered that question.
Finally, here's an analysis of trust in types of people based on their job roles. Politicians, bankers, and journalists rank among the least-trusted professions. Doctors, scientists, teachers, and the military are the most-trusted professions on a global scale. The study goes into more detail about private sector statistics — trust in big business has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years, although trust in tech companies is declining rapidly.
The Ipsos study concludes, “Trust in politicians and the media is low, but that has also barely changed over the decades and has not moved much over the last three years. The pandemic has impacted society and the world in ways we can’t yet predict, but it has not yet had a major impact on how much the people of the world trust the institutions and industries with which they interact.”
To view the complete 116-page PDF of the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor report, click here.