Hong Kong tops global rise in trust towards media and business

Trust among the Hong Kong general population experienced a dramatic year-on-year rise from 45% to 55%, returning to 2013 levels, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2019. This bump makes it the highest risers in trust globally despite Hong Kong’s rating still being one of the lowest comparatively.

To gather its data, the study surveyed about 33,000 respondents in 27 markets between 19 October and 16 November 2018. The level of increase in the general population’s trust was consistent across the four institutions:

1. NGOs: 65%, 10-point increase
2. Government: 55%, 9-point increase
3. Media: 54%, 11-point increase
4. Business: 45%, 9-point increase

The findings imply a less pessimistic outlook in Hong Kong than in previous years. Fewer people in the mass population believe the system is failing them compared to the global average, 23% versus 46%. And there is a significant decline in people’s “desire for change” (-9 points), “lack of confidence” (-14 points) and “lack of hope” (-5 points) since 2017.

In general, trust among Hong Kong population had the largest increase across all 27 markets surveyed in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Adrian Warr, managing director of Edelman Hong Kong, commented, “This massive surge in trust may come as surprising news to many. Perhaps in a less turbulent year politically, people have become more aware of the base socioeconomic indicators that make Hong Kong a great place to live.”

“Significant challenges and uncertainties remain in Hong Kong, most notably a major gap between the haves and the have-nots. The million-dollar question: are we seeing a brief respite from several years of darkness, or is this a return to form?” he added.

The report points out that trust in business in Hong Kong has experienced the largest rise globally, but it remains in a state of distrust for the eighth year in a row. In 2019, it is the only institution that is distrusted. Hong Kong is one of six markets across the 27 surveyed where business is less trusted than the government.

“Businesses have a vital role to play serving public needs, whether it be providing healthcare, increasing access to education, or using technology to fight climate change,” said Aron Harilela, JP, chairman of The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. “The Trust findings show clearly that people want business to improve conditions in the community. Business should engage the community if it is going to continue to be a key driver of Hong Kong’s success.”

Meanwhile, general population trust in media experienced its second year of increased trust in Hong Kong and the highest increase globally. With 69% of people worried about fake news being used as a weapon, they are turning to trusted sources. This is reinforced by a 20-point increase in news engagement, and traditional media coming out as the most trusted media type (65%) at a time when social media remains distrusted (44%).

Warr said, “People are turning back to the Fourth Estate to make informed decisions. It is possible that the attack on the media has highlighted the value it plays in society.”

The survey also asked questions on people’s attitudes to their employers and a stark contrast has emerged against business in general. When asked if they trust their employer, the response was emphatic (74%, 29 points above trust in business). As faith in traditional institutions has waned over time, people are turning to relationships within their own control.

The majority (73%) of people in Hong Kong said that CEOs should take the lead on change instead of waiting for the government to impose it, while nearly two-thirds (62%) believe that a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates. It shows a clear signal that people expect to see active community purpose from the private sector.

Employees also expect greater social purpose from employers, with 60% agreeing that it is critical for their CEO to respond on societal issues during challenging times and the same number saying purpose is a strong expectation or deal-breaker when choosing an employer in job decisions.

“As businesses have grown in power and wealth over time, so have people’s expectations of them to solve society’s problems. Employers today need to think well beyond pay and bottom line and towards playing an active role in improving the communities in which they operate. This is both a huge but complex opportunity and challenge,” Warr said.

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