26 March 2012

Hill+Knowlton Strategies Survey Finds Public’s Access to Information Increasing as Trust is Decreasing

NEW YORK, 26 March 2012 – Hill+Knowlton Strategies recently fielded a national survey to assess public opinion on issues at the intersection of the public and private sectors. The findings show that despite new digital channels and the public’s increased access to information about corporate business practices, Americans are finding it difficult to hold companies accountable for their actions.
Results revealed a significant deterioration of trust in government and business since 2010, as less than one-third of those surveyed trust the government to do what is right (30 percent), and just 35 percent trust corporations to do what is right — down from 53 percent and 45 percent, respectively, in September 2010.


“The results of the survey confirm what we already suspected — that there is an increased distrust in government and business, which is leading to an increasingly aware and skeptical public,” said Dan Bartlett, President & CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies U.S. “65 percent of respondents agree that corporations have a responsibility to consider what is in the public’s best interest when making business decisions. What this data tells us is the public desires a more honest and open dialogue with corporations, and Corporate America would be wise to listen.”


The poll also found that 90 percent of those surveyed cited a “friend or family member” as the most trusted source of information on policy or product issues related to U.S. corporations. In fact, less than four-in-ten say they would trust boards of directors (39 percent), company spokespersons (30 percent), government officials (30 percent) or CEOs (30 percent).


"Public and private organizations benefit from evaluating who delivers their messages and how the messages are relayed to the public in this new era of communications." said Peter Zandan, Global Vice Chair and head of H+K Strategies’ Research+Data Insights organization. "Over a third of the American public say they no longer trust the traditional spokespeople for private and public organizations."


Additional key findings from H+K Strategies’ survey include:
  • Trust in government and business to do what is right has deteriorated significantly since 2010 and majorities say they do not trust several key individuals and institutions to identify solutions to our nation’s problems.
Less than one-third trust the government to do what is right (30 percent), and just 35 percent trust corporations to do what is right.


  • While Americans feel that their access to information about corporate business practices has increased over the past ten years, they do not believe it is easier to hold companies accountable for their actions.
More than half of Americans (52 percent) feel that they have more access to information about the business practices of corporations, but only 30 percent feel like it is easier to hold companies accountable for their actions.


  • Majorities agree that corporations have a responsibility to act in the public’s best interest and that integrity should be a top priority.
While only 22 percent think U.S. corporations currently make integrity a priority, more than nine-in-ten (94 percent) think integrity should be a priority.


  • Meeting with community leaders and chambers of commerce along with sponsoring and having employees volunteer at charity events are seen as the most meaningful ways to communicate with the public. Smaller but still significant percentages view social media communications as meaningful.
Meeting with key community leaders (62 percent) and meeting with local chambers of commerce (59 percent) were the two highest rated ways to meaningfully communicate with the public.


  • Voters trust friends, family members, employees and consumer groups the most as sources of information on policy or product issues related to U.S. corporations.
At 90 percent, a “friend or family member” is the most trusted source of information.


The survey included 2,012 registered voters nationally with over samples in New York (n=300), Chicago (n=300), Los Angeles (n=200), and San Francisco (n=200). The survey was fielded online January 25-30, 2012.


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