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Canadians trust essential services, science, not CEOs, politicians

The 2020 Proof CanTrust Index surveyed Canadians on issues of public trust in January

April 21, 2020  by CM Staff

PHOTO: abdallahh via Wikimedia Commons

TORONTO — As Canadians navigate the COVID-19 crisis, surrounded by major disruption and uncertainty, conditions will amplify both the positive and the negative aspects of leadership in this country, according to the 2020 Proof CanTrust Index.

The Proof CanTrust Index, published by public relations firm Proof Inc., measures Canada’s public trust in its institutions and leaders.

“Trust is more critical now than ever. Actions taken throughout the COVID-19 crisis and recovery will not only impact an organization’s reputation, but also its long-term survival,” said Proof CEO, Bruce MacLellan, in a statement. “Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan must include building trust. What Canadian leaders do now will either build or break trust.”

The overall trust index this year hovers at 38% (39% in 2019 and down from 45% when the study began five years ago). The trust index increases among those with a higher disposition to trust (up to 55%). Those under 50 years of age are least trusting of Canadian institutions on an aggregate level. Younger Canadians exhibit a lower disposition to trust than older Canadians and have lower trust scores in many areas of our research.

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C-suite get a C grade

The overall trust level of Canadians in CEOs has fallen from 55% in 2018 to 38% in 2020. Employees give their employer a C grade in efforts to build trust internally. The further employees are from the C-suite, the lower they grade their employer. Moreover, when Canadians were asked who they trust as sources of reliable information, business executives were trusted by only 28%.

“How leaders and businesses behave now and into the future will have an important impact on shaping trust levels of young and middle-aged people,” said Proof EVP, Vanessa Eaton. “The evidence is clear, teams with a higher degree of trust in their leadership are more agile and better able to navigate uncertainty. Senior leaders need to better understand trust and how to build it.”

Trust in essential services is strong

Trust levels remain strong in services important during this pandemic, namely hospitals at 66%, grocery stores at 58%, our healthcare system at 57% and banks at 48%. Over five years, we see that Canadians place enduring trust in their public services and institutions. Trust in the RCMP, for example, is at 61%, trust in our healthcare system is at 57%, and the education system at 55%.

We trust science, and our media trust is climbing

As sources of reliable information, Canadians trust medical doctors (76%) and scientists (70%) more than all other sources except their own friends and family (78%). In contrast, politicians, in general, are trusted by only 12%.

Trust in the news media is proving resilient, according to Proof, and up slightly to 44% in 2020 over 40% in 2019. This trust may grow further as people rely on the media during the COVID-19 crisis.

Over half of all Canadians say they trust the institution of Canada’s free & independent press.

“In times of crisis, we need our news media and educated sources of information to be trustworthy and to communicate in a reliable and credible way,” added MacLellan. “This increase is promising.”

For 2020, Proof surveyed 1,500 Canadians during January 17-27. The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age and gender, according to the public relations firm.