Australians trust journalists but not journalism, according to a new study. Well, kinda. Trust in media has hit an all-time low, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer released today. Trust in business, government and NGOs also fell, with all Australian institutions now classified as “distrusted”.

While Australians trust traditional media more than they did a year ago, falling trust in social media, owned media and search engines has led to an overall decrease in media trust.

It means Australia now has the second lowest trust in media globally, beating only Turkey.

Media is the least trusted institution in Australia and trust has declined in all four major intuitions – government, business, media and NGOs, for the second consecutive year, according to the research.

Australia and Singapore are the only two countries which have had trust fall in all four institutions for the last two years.

Source: 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

Despite the decline in trust of their institutions, trust in individual voices of authority increased. CEOs, journalists and boards of directors recorded double-digit increases in credibility, according to Edelman.

Media Divergence

Trust of traditional media groups improved from 46 per cent in 2017 to 61 per cent in 2018. Online media trust is up to 43 per cent from 37 per cent and journalism trust rebounded from 17 per cent last year to 28 per cent.

“The Trust Barometer found 65 per cent of Australians are no longer sure of what is true, and in an ultra-low trust environment where people are unsure of what to believe, traditional media organisations and journalists are enjoying a resurgence in credibility,” said Steve Spurr, CEO of Edelman Australia.

However, those improvements were offset by drops in other areas resulting in an overall decline in media trust.

Social media trust levels slumped from 28 per cent to 23 per cent, well below the global mark of 40 per cent. Owned media fell from 29 per cent to 26 per cent. While trust in search engines dropped from 58 per cent to 47 per cent.

Two thirds of Australians said they were concerned about fake news being used as a weapon and 58 per cent said “it is becoming harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organisation,” according to the report.

Trust in business falls, CEO trust improves

Australians’ trust in business fell to 45 per cent and is significantly lower than the global average of 52 per cent, according to the report. Despite the lack of confidence in business overall, most Australians (74 per cent) still trust their employer and business leaders saw a resurgence in trust.

CEO credibility improved 50 per cent from 26 per cent to 39 per cent, while the credibility of a board of directors increased from 24 per cent to 34 per cent.

It is in contrast to our political leaders. According to the research, the Australian government is the most “broken” institution and only 22 per cent of respondents chose the government as the institution likely to lead them to a better future.

It means Australians are increasingly turning to other credible individuals, said Edelman Australia CEO, Steve Spurr.

“The resurgence in credibility of CEOs, directors and experts is stark, however Australians are not just looking for these leaders to communicate and represent their organisation’s interests, but to advocate for, and lead on, broader societal issues,” Spurr said.

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