3 February 2016
This morning we launched the Irish findings of the 16th Annual Edelman Trust Barometer. We were delighted to be joined by His Excellency Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Ms. Dearbhail McDonald, Associate Editor and Legal Affairs Editor at the Irish Independent and Shane Coleman, Newstalk’s Political Editor as MC, as well as colleagues, clients and representatives from the public and private sectors.
We had an excellent and timely debate, as many of the findings focused on trust in Government and trust in business, as well as the implications for Ireland of the UK Referendum on Europe. The survey also found that Ireland is no longer the least trusting country worldwide. We are now sixth least trusting and while we are still a nation of distrusters, the picture is more positive than it has been in the past five years. In fact, in 2016 Ireland recorded the biggest trust leap we have made in the rankings since 2011. This can be attributed to both improving economic conditions and a growing culture of transparency among the key institutions of Government, business, media and NGOs.
Against the backdrop of a global discussion on inequality and wealth distribution, the study examined trust levels across certain segments of the population. In Ireland, it identified a significant trust gap of 10% between those who are in higher salary brackets, who regularly consume media, follow public policy issues and have completed a University degree, as compared with those respondents who did not fall within this description.
This growing inequality should be a cause for concern for companies and the political system, which need to demonstrate that they are responding to the expectations of the Irish public across the board. To do otherwise leaves the door open for an increase in populism and protectionism, rather than a fully participative conversation involving all members of society.
In terms of the role of business, our research also found that Ireland’s business sector is most trusted (64%) to keep up with the pace of economic and social change. The vast majority (82%) of people want business to play a leadership role in solving the problems facing Ireland, agreeing that a company can increase profits while at the same time taking actions to improve the economic and social conditions in the community. Chief Executives are also expected to lead from the front with 80% of people believing that CEOs should be active in discussions on societal issues including income inequality and access to education and training.
That means that there is a significant opportunity for company leadership to take a more active role in engaging on issues, beyond the traditional business and financial updates. Surprisingly, just 52% of respondents in Ireland could name a CEO, which demonstrates a real lack of participation at CEO level in the national conversation, but also presents a huge opportunity for business leaders to start talking about the things that matter to people.
The Barometer also considered key national issues including the General Election and the forthcoming UK referendum on Europe. Trust in Government increased by 10 points this year and looking beyond the General Election, 51% of all respondents trust that they will be ‘better off’ financially in the next five years. However, given that this is the most social of all the General Elections to date, an interesting finding for politicians was that just 26% of people trust a politician as a spokesperson online – although this is up 9 points from 2015.
Looking to Ireland’s relationship with the UK, three-quarters of respondents feel that a result in favour of the UK leaving the EU arising from the upcoming referendum would have a negative impact on Ireland, with the UK remaining in the Union positively benefiting Ireland in terms of continued trade; EU stability and the protection of open borders.
Our research team at Edelman Berland has provided some fascinating findings on trust in Ireland in 2016. Trust is rising, however it is unequal with higher income earners more trusting than the mass population. Business, in particular, has the opportunity to provide leadership in bridging the trust divide. If business is to deliver on this opportunity companies must prioritise purposeful action in society as well as profit. For more insights on building trust in business, please contact us at Dublin@edelman.com.
The full report is available to view at http://bit.ly/EdelTrustIE.
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