Trust in Singapore

Singapore is the fourth most trusting country in Asia Pacific according to the 11th Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey of opinion formers in 23 countries. Globally trust is up a little in all the institutions we measure (business, media, government and NGOs), but in individual markets the scores vary significantly.

In Singapore 67% said they trusted business to do what is right; trust in government is at 77%, a slight decline on last year’s very high score which was probably attributable to the perceived good management of the global financial and economic crisis.

Trust in media is 59%, again a small decline on last year but high globally and for the region. Interestingly, Singapore, China and Indonesia, places where governments have a significant role in media all score highly especially when compared to the ‘free’ media markets of Australia (32%), UK (22%) and US (27%). We tend to attribute this to the nation building role that respondents ascribe to media in these markets. So we believe the answers to the question ‘do you trust media to do what is right’ are set in a very different context in Singapore to, say, the US where the constitutional role of the media is to hold government to account and be part of the system of checks and balances.

Singapore also bucks the global trend in the credible sources of information about companies that people most rely on. Generally, after Google or Baidu most opinion formers globally rely very much on local media. That is also true in Singapore, but in addition it is one of a very few markets where a large number of regional and global media also rate in the top ten named sources (UAE is similar). Undoubtedly this is driven by Singapore’s unique MNC based economic model and regional role, but it does make the job of professional communicators a little more complex as in addition to ensuring your online presence is optimized and local journalists are well briefed, the international press also need to be catered for.

Trust in NGO’s in Asia Pac is now on par with business and in Singapore 64% of respondents now trust them to ‘do what is right’. It was not long ago in the region and indeed in all developing economies that the received wisdom was that NGOs were a western or developed market invention and that they need not be taken quite so seriously. That is no longer the case in the region or in Singapore, and companies that do not engage with them could be missing a valuable ally and competitive advantage. Certainly in crisis if companies find themselves in opposition to NGOs they need to have better data or a solid argument because opinion formers will now trust the NGOs word at least as much as that of business.

Bankers should be flocking to Singapore. In many developed markets they are almost pariahs having been blamed for the financial crisis and now, in many cases after huge bailouts from the public purse, are having to explain big bonuses when many others in their economies are dealing with austerity and fears over job security. Only 16% of respondents in the UK trust banks to ‘do what is right’. In the US the number is 25% and in Ireland where the economy has had to be bailed out by the European Bank it is a record low of 6%. But in Singapore trust in banks is at 71%, good news for the nation’s aspirations to be a regional financial hub.

The full results of our survey are available here.

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