Image: Vic/Flickr Image: Vic/Flickr

The latest Edelman Trust barometer has presented a damning indictment of social media, government and in the US, just about all institutions, but traditional media and Boris Johnson come out of the report glowing. Who do we blame for declining trust?

And so it turns out that the British public doesn’t trust social media, the latest Edelman trust barometer questioned 33,000 Brits and just 24 per cent trust social media.

The survey found that only 36 per cent trust those in power, 60 per cent do not think the government acts with transparency or is honest, and according to Will Walden, head of government relations at Edelman UK, “distrust is now the default position.”

But it seems that the Brits are a trusting people compared to the people of the United States. The survey found that, of the 28 countries surveyed, public trust of institutions in the US is the lowest.

Ben Boyd, president of practices, sectors, and intellectual property at Edelman said: “This was almost a year of unfathomable firsts in the US. For the American respondent, it was the year of losing its place on the world stage and feeling it’d lost its way."

But take a second look. In the UK, trust in traditional media has risen to its highest level since 2012, with 61 per cent trusting traditional media, up 13 percentage points from last year.

Theresa May is the most trusted politician in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is second and third is Boris Johnson.

And the survey found that the country where the local population trust institutions the most, is China.

But pull back. In China, trust in institutions is at the highest!! Really.

Last year, when a group of highly respected judges said that the Prime Minister cannot drag the UK out of the EU without ratification from parliament, a certain newspaper described the judges as “the enemy of the people.” But trust in traditional media is rising.

Boris Johnson, the man who says that the £350 million a week claim about the EU budget did not go far enough, is the third most trusted politician.

This survey is not finding that people trust less, it is finding opinion has become more polarized.

If you are strongly pro-Brexit, you may well trust Mr Johnson more. Your opinion of newspapers that described the parliament supporting judges as the enemy of the people, is likely to rise if that was your pre-existing view.

When you say that don’t trust social media you are effectively saying you don’t trust people, your peers.

President Trump has muddied the water, describing CNN as fake news at a time when certain US media outlets are peddling science denial, putting ‘alternative facts’ ahead of actual facts.

The survey is good news for traditional media. Indeed, we may be on the cusp of seeing a traditional media come-back, with the popularity of premium services rising, and with AI creating insights, making it easier to target advertising on websites other than Google and Facebook with precision, creating new advertising revenue potential.

But it does seem that the survey is telling us that we are more inclined to trust news and, whatever the source and politicians, if the news as it is reported reflects your pre-existing views, especially if extreme and emotive language is used - providing this language supports what you already think.

Edelman dates the decline in trust back to the 2008 crisis and says rising inequality has exacerbated the problem.

But maybe the biggest concern, one not raised by the Edelman report, is science denial, and the castigation of experts. It seems science is fine as long as it confirms pre-existing beliefs.