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23 January 2018, 01:36 | Bernice Figueroa
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Ironically, this is happening at a time when the USA economy is growing strongly, unemployment continues to edge lower and share prices are booming.
In this environment, media has become the least-trusted institution for the first time in Trust Barometer history - yet, at the same time, the credibility of journalists rose substantially.
America suffered a record drop in trust, according to the annual survey, while China topped countries with a growing trust in institutions.
In an annual assessment of trust levels around the world, the firm said Monday that trust in the USA has fallen precipitously in the past year, particularly among what it terms the 'informed public.' Trust in government has fallen the most but confidence in business, media and non-governmental organizations has also dropped sharply.
Twenty-two of the 28 countries expressed distrust in media, and in the US, the public's trust in media sources dropped 5 percent from 2017. These decreases have all but eliminated last year's 21-point trust gap between the general population and informed public in the U.S. Trust among the informed public in the US imploded, plunging 23 points to 45, making it now the lowest of the 28 countries surveyed, below Russian Federation and South Africa.
One country where trust is rising is China, which now finds itself atop Edelman's Trust index for both the general population and the 'informed public.' In contrast to the US, faith in government is leading the overall upward trends. "The root cause of this fall is the lack of objective facts and rational discourse".
Globally, almost seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information being used as a weapon, and 59 percent say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization. In 22 of the 28 countries surveyed it is now distrusted.
"The demise of confidence in the Fourth Estate is driven primarily by a significant drop in trust in platforms, notably search engines and social media", it added.
Business is now expected to be an agent of change.
The issue of fake news has been prominent during Donald Trump's first year in office, with the president and his critics accusing each other of spreading false information. The employer is the new safe house in global governance, with 72 percent of respondents saying that they trust their own company.
Edelman said it was time social media companies sat up and listened.
Elsewhere in Europe, the survey finds relatively high levels of trust for both government and media in the Netherlands (both over 50 percent).
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