Study: Trust in SG traditional media at an all-time low

Trust in traditional media in Singapore has seen a drastic decline, continuing a downward trend since 2019 and marking the first time in the past decade that traditional media is not trusted. Nearly one-in-two respondents feel that the media in Singapore is not doing well at being objective and non-partisan.

According to Edelman Singapore’s Trust Barometer, while media is trusted as a business institution, when it comes to news and a source of information, the global infodemic has had a negative impact on trust in traditional media, search engines, owned media and social media. Trust in all sources is near record lows in Singapore. Singaporeans are also worried that government leaders (50%), business leaders (53%), and journalists (57%) are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.

Trust in Singapore is further threatened by a troubling lack of information hygiene. Less than one-in-five respondents practice good information hygiene, which requires them to perform at least three of the following four measures: regularly engage with the news; engage with a different point of view; verify information; and avoid spreading unvetted information. This is an area of concern as majority of respondents (60%) indicated they were willing to share or forward news items that they found interesting – of which only 18% practiced good information hygiene.

“Poor information hygiene, coupled with an eagerness to share news, means that the rapid spread of misinformation remains a major threat in Singapore,” added Kerr. “We saw this with the spread of fake news in the early months of the pandemic, which the government had to debunk, and it’s clear that media literacy and information hygiene are two key areas that need to be addressed,” said John Kerr, CEO of Edelman Singapore.

CEOs are expected to take charge

Amidst these challenges, the mandate for business to act beyond business has never been clearer. CEOs are expected to take charge: Over 8-in-10 in Singapore want CEOs to speak out on important social issues such as the pandemic’s impact, job automation, issues in the local community and wider societal problems. Over 7-in-10 expect CEOs to step in when the government does not fix societal problems, take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose change, and hold themselves accountable to the public and not just board of directors or stockholders.

“In the COVID-19 normal, there are new expectations of business to be a force for good and to step up. Business leaders need to continue to be a force for change – following up on commitments, acting in the community’s interest and being a voice on important issues,” said Delicia Tan-Seet, Managing Director, Client Growth and Innovation, Edelman Singapore. “But even as they take the lead on change, they must also be a partner for change – working with government and NGOs to take collective action to solve societal problems.”

Contracting COVID-19 not the biggest fear

Interestingly, while this year’s report also saw the pandemic add to persistent personal and societal fears, contracting COVID-19 (65%) was not the greatest concern in Singapore. With respondents more concerned about job loss (90%), cybersecurity (76%) and climate change (73%), respondents did note that they worried about how the pandemic will accelerate job loss due to automation. They also felt that the pandemic has deepened inequity around the world, with those with less education, less money and fewer resources being unfairly burdened by its health and economic impact.

“The gains in trust capital over the past year are a good sign, but we cannot take this trust for granted,” said John Kerr, CEO of Edelman Singapore. “While Singapore has done well in the face of the pandemic, concerns over the future and the threat of ‘information bankruptcy’, which we see around the globe, can undermine trust if left unchecked.”

However, despite the pandemic and recessions, Singapore’s Trust Index reached a 10-year high of 68 points where the government (76%) remains the most trusted institution, followed by NGOs (70%), Business (65%) and Media (62%).

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(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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