Every year, our firm puts out what we call the Edelman Trust Barometer. This survey of people in 27 countries gauges how much they trust the institutions of government, media, business and NGOs to do the right thing.
The results of the 2015 Trust Barometer are startling when it comes to Japan, showing that people in this country are less trusting than anywhere else.
Trust in Japan hit a watershed in 2012. After the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami (March 11, 2011), trust in the four institutions plummeted, as Japan moved from being a largely trusting nation to heading the ranks of the “distrusters”. Fewer than half of those surveyed said they trusted the four bodies, with government recording a bottom-scraping 25%.
In 2013, the Japanese public remained deeply sceptical, with trust in the four institutions falling to below 50% apiece.
Last year saw a bit of a trust rebound, thanks to high expectations for the government of Shinzo Abe (prime minister since December 2012) and its economic policies known as Abenomics. However, trust for all institutions remained below 50%, with the exception of business, which hovered around 52%. This rebound was accompanied by the burning question as to whether the economic revival was sustainable or a mere “dead cat bounce”.
Now, in 2015, the jury has handed down its verdict, and Japan is less trusting than ever.
Our latest survey found that, out of 27 countries, Japan ranked as the most distrusting country of all, with overall trust falling from 44% (21st) to a pitiful 37%. Trust dropped for all four institutions in Japan, erasing the gains of the previous year.
Why did this happen?
Our theory is that Japanese society is at the cusp of change — perhaps a transitional period that is creating a paradigm of contradictions, prompting the Japanese to continue to lose faith in their institutions.
While people here seem to want a more assertive, stronger and prominent Japan, they are also concerned over legislative changes — such as the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets law and the government’s reinterpretation of collective self-defence and possible changes to the pacifist constitution.
On the economic side, the high expectations for Abenomics have been bogged down by an increase in the cost of living triggered by the falling yen.
One of the big callouts from this year’s Trust Barometer is the plummeting trust in the media. This seems to be a result of their trying to find a new business model in an environment of declining audiences, and of issues surrounding non-factual reporting admitted by one of Japan’s more prominent newspapers.
Japanese people were shocked to learn — perhaps for the first time ever — that not everything reported in the domestic media was sacred truth. This scepticism seems to have shaken their confidence in media objectivity, causing many now to prefer confirming visuals on television, using a search engine or going to a company’s homepage for information, rather than to the media.
In all, it will be interesting next year to see where trust heads depending, perhaps, on whether the economy recovers.© Japan Today