A global survey has found that while public trust in the world’s democracies has fallen to new lows, scores are rising in several autocratic states – notably China. The Edelman Trust Barometer – which for 20 years has polled thousands of people on trust, in their governments, media, business and NGOs – identified the biggest losers as institutions in Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, South Korea and the US. Public trust in Germany fell seven points to 46 per cent, followed by the Australians and the Dutch, who each dropped six points to 53 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively. Both South Korea, on 42 per cent, and the US, with 43 per cent, saw a five-point fall from the previous year. In contrast, public trust in institutions in China stood at 83 per cent, up 11 points. Trust also rose in the United Arab Emirates, by nine points to 76 per cent, and in Thailand, where it grew by five points to 66 per cent. The survey also highlighted that business had retained strong levels of trust globally – albeit with reservations about its commitment to social fairness – thanks to its role in developing vaccines and adapting workplace and retail practices during the pandemic. “We really have a collapse of trust in democracies,” said Richard Edelman, whose communications group surveyed more than 36,000 people in 28 countries. “It all goes back to: ‘do you have a sense of economic confidence?’,” he said, noting high levels of concern about job losses. The trillions of dollars of stimulus spent by the world’s richest nations to support their economies through the pandemic have failed to instil a lasting sense of confidence, the survey suggested. In two pandemic years, how our politicians have failed the world In Japan, only 15 per cent of people believed they and their families would be better off in five years’ time, with most other democracies ranging around 20-40 per cent on the same question. But in China, nearly two-thirds were optimistic about their economic fortunes and 80 per cent of Indians believed they would be better off in five years. Edelman said higher public trust levels in China were linked not just to economic perceptions, but also to a greater sense of predictability about Chinese policy, not least on the pandemic. “I think there is a coherence between what is done and what is said … They have had a better Covid than the US for example.” Living with zero Covid in China, 2 years and counting The US leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, while China has regularly been reporting no new deaths for months as it pursues strict “zero Covid-19” policies. The Edelman survey results align with its findings in recent years that have charted rising disillusionment with capitalism, political leadership and the media. Concerns about “fake news” were this time at all-time highs, with three-quarters of respondents globally worried about it being “used as a weapon”. Among societal fears, climate change was now just behind the loss of employment as a major concern. The burden of expectation on business leaders remains heavy, with strong majorities saying they bought goods, accepted job offers and invested in businesses according to their beliefs and values. Around two-fifths, however, also said that business was not doing enough to address climate change , economic inequality and workforce reskilling.