Why citizens are losing trust in democratic governments

·2 min read

Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2022 revealed that the global level of trust in government and media is dropping.

An annual online survey conducted in 28 countries and reaching over 36,000 respondents found that distrust in political institutions fell in 2021 across the world.

Among the key findings of the report was the overall lower trust in world leaders and institutions around the world, with 67% of respondents saying they worry that journalists and reporters were “purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.” The figures were 66% and 63% for government and business leaders, respectively.

These results come as the countries across the world have struggled to contain the novel coronavirus since 2020, with varying degrees of success. The Omicron variant, which was first identified in November of 2021, has spread rapidly around the world and has driven the seven day average of new cases to 3.5 million as of January 20.

A majority of survey participants believed that institutions, including businesses, governments, NGOs, and the media were not doing well on responding to health and public safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the biggest societal fears were job loss (85%), climate change (75%), and hackers and cyber attacks (71%).

Photo by: KGC-254/STAR MAX/IPx 2021 1/12/22 Protesters demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the 'party gate' scandal outside Parliament on 12th January 2022 in London, England, UK. Johnson is under attack from both his MPs and the public after admitting to having attended a garden party at Downing Street in May 2020 when the UK was still in lockdown.
Photo by: KGC-254/STAR MAX/IPx 2021 1/12/22 Protesters demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the 'party gate' scandal outside Parliament on 12th January 2022 in London, England, UK. Johnson is under attack from both his MPs and the public after admitting to having attended a garden party at Downing Street in May 2020 when the UK was still in lockdown.

Social divides widening

Within the United States, a clear political chasm between Democrats and Republicans exists. The Edelman Trust Index, which measures the average percent trust in NGOs, business, government and media, was 55 for Democrats and 35 for Republicans.

Although a deeply skeptical public was a consistent theme in most countries, with 59% of respondents answering that they tend to distrust information until they see evidence of trustworthiness, citizens of some countries reported lower levels of trust than others.

Democracies across the world experienced a rise in distrust in 2021. The five countries with the largest declines in their Trust Indices were Germany (-7), Australia (-6), The Netherlands (-6), South Korea (-5), and the United States (-5). Significantly, the gap in trust between high-income and low-income earners had widened to 15 points, up from 6 points in 2012.

The report noted that the cycle of distrust threatens societal stability. “Government and media feed [the] cycle of division and disinformation for votes and clicks,” the report found. This causes NGOs and business to feel pressured to “take on societal problems beyond their abilities,” leading to greater overall distrust in those institutions as well.

Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.

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