There are parallel and equally unsettling trends occurring worldwide: trust in media is falling as people are increasingly unable to discern credible information while trust in national governments worldwide (although with more pronounced distrust in developed countries) is also deteriorating.
The 2017 Edelman Barometer, for the first time, found that three-quarters of the 28 countries surveyed were categorized as “distrustful” of government, business, media and non-governmental organizations.
Globally, public confidence in institutions has dropped by more in the past year than in any other since the financial crisis in 2009. Media are seen as part of the elite class, who govern.
Trust in media plunged from 51% to 43%, an all-time low for the index, with the sharpest falls in Australia, Canada, Colombia, and Ireland. As the reputation of traditional media declines, people are shifting towards the internet for news, the results showed. Online search engines were deemed more reliable than traditional media for information, a reversal from five years ago.
Likewise, a survey of 300 government communication chiefs from 40 countries, found there has been considerable declines in trust for national governments. The study, entitled Leader’s Report: The Future of Government Communications, finds that just as the internet has transformed media, it has also transformed the role of government as providers of information. Governments are now struggling to keep pace with how modern voters gather information and form their opinions. since governments rely on the consent and trust of the people for their legitimacy and authority, falling levels of trust in government is a key issue facing government communicators.
These trends simultaneously reinforce one another, inhibiting dialogue among citizens and with the government, contributing to disengagement among publics, and impeding policies that require informed publics.
So, what is a citizen to do if they’d like to cut through the noise to see more transparency and accountability? Australian journalist Claire Connelly offers this concise, erudite answer: be vocal, participate, and check facts because democracy only works if we show up.