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'Trump Effect' Sends Canadians' Trust In Institutions Plummeting

For the first time ever, Canada has become a "distruster" country.

A year ago, Canadians were feeling the "Trudeau effect": Trust in government, business, media and NGOs had jumped in the wake of the November, 2015, election, amid prospects for a new direction for Canada.

This year, Canadians are feeling the "Trump effect" — trust has fallen to its lowest level in 17 years of the Trust Barometer from public relations firm Edelman.

For the first time ever, Canada has joined the ranks of "distrusters," the term Edelman uses to describe countries where fewer than half of the population express trust in their civil institutions.

“Canada is not immune from the impact of the global trust crisis. In fact, we’re seeing similar trend lines as our neighbors in the United States,” Lisa Kimmel, president and CEO of Edelman Canada, said in a statement. “Canadians are telling us they are worried about their futures and don’t trust our institutions to fix their concerns.”

Worldwide, trust declined at its fastest pace ever across the 28 countries that Edelman surveyed between October 13 and November 16 of last year.

That period ran from the closing days of the U.S. election — when the media was chatting about the legitimacy of the FBI's probe into Hillary Clinton — through to the aftermath of the election, when talk centred around Russia's influence over the vote.

The survey found Canadians hold many attitudes "that commonly underpin populist outcomes":

  • 48 per cent said they are "concerned" the influx of people from other countries is damaging the economy and the country's culture;
  • 80 per cent said the elites are out of touch with regular people;
  • 61 per cent lack faith the country's leadership can solve Canada's problems;
  • 48 per cent said globalization "is taking us in the wrong direction."

The Edelman poll found trust in media worldwide has plunged to an all-time low in 17 countries. In more than four-fifths of surveyed countries, fewer than half expressed faith in the media. Canada joined this club in the latest survey, with trust in media falling to 45 per cent, from 55 per cent the year before. Fifty-five per cent of Canadians said they didn't listen to people or organizations they disagree with.

Trust in government is also in decline, in Canada and worldwide. Forty-three per cent of Canadians said they trusted government, down from 53 per cent a year earlier. One-third of Canadians said they would support politicians who can make their lives better even if they exaggerated the truth.

Large 'trust gap' in Canada

“The implications of the global trust crisis are deep and wide-ranging,” Edelman's president and CEO, Richard Edelman, said in a statement.

“It began with the Great Recession of 2008, but like the second and third waves of a tsunami, globalization and technological change have further weakened people’s trust in global institutions. The consequence is virulent populism and nationalism as the mass population has taken control away from the elites.”

"The system is broken. Without trust, belief in the system fails."

— Edelman Trust Barometer report, 2017

Edelman's survey found a growing gap in Canada, and around the world, between what it calls the "informed public" (13 per cent of the world's population) and the "mass population" (87 per cent). Trust is far lower among the "mass population" than the "informed public."

In fact, virtually all of the decline in trust in Canada took place among the "mass population," with trust in that category dropping nine percentage points, to 47 per cent. There was little change among the "informed public," with trust falling to 62 per cent from 63 per cent.

"Current populist movements are fueled by a lack of trust in the system and economic and societal fears," Edelman said. Globally, the top reasons for distrust were:

  • Corruption (40 percent)
  • Immigration (28 percent)
  • Globalization (27 percent)
  • Eroding social values (25 percent)
  • The pace of innovation (22 percent)

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