David Blecken
Feb 27, 2019

‘Informed’ Japanese become more trusting: Edelman

Society is seen becoming more divided, while international trust in 'Brand Japan' increases.


Two social tiers in Japan have increasingly different views of the world around them, according to Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer survey. The report highlighted the highest gap so far in trust levels between what Edelman terms the ‘informed public’ (the highly educated professional class) and the ‘mass population’.

There is a gap of 16 percentage points between both groups in terms of their trust in the four major institutions of government, business, NGOs and media, with 53% of the former expressing trust compared to 37% of the latter. Trust among the educated class has risen seven percentage points on last year, meaning it has a ‘neutral’ stance rather than one of distrust, according to Edelman’s scale.

Even so, trust levels in Japan remain low in the bigger picture. Just 15% of both groups think the ‘system’ is working in their favour. Globally, 63% of the informed public and 52% of the general population have faith in those institutions. China, India and Indonesia are the most trusting nations.

Japanese women are more sceptical of the establishment than their male counterparts: 34% of women show trust versus 44% of men. Both groups have the most faith in the business sector (40% and 47% respectively), and the least in media (30% and 41% respectively).

Presenting the findings in Tokyo, Tonia E Ries, Edelman’s global director of intellectual property, suggested that trust levels had risen marginally due to the perception that Japan is a stable country relative to the “turmoil” seen elsewhere in the world. But she noted that a “very different mindset” was apparent between the different societal and gender groups.

Trust in employers remained low (59%) relative to the global standard (75%), but they are still the most trusted institutions in the country.

More people are looking to CEOs to take the lead on social issues (as opposed to waiting for the government): 64% expressed this view, up 11 percentage points on last year. The informed public showed an increased desire for what Edelman describes as “forceful reformers to bring change” (62%, up four percentage points).

Ries said she thought employers can do more to make allies of their employees by providing “a bit of certainty in a very unsure time”. She added that regular employees are nonetheless seen as more credible than CEOs, and that companies known to treat their employees well are more likely to be trusted. Her observations come as Facebook employees continue to express anger over the working conditions of moderators, who as contractors are seen to be treated unfairly.

Japan is well known for taking a dim view of the future, and its pessimism remained intact. Just 16% of the masses and 38% of the informed public feel they will be better off in five years’ time, compared to a respective 49% and 63% globally.

There was good news for Japan’s national reputation however despite the country’s frequent corporate and political scandals. International trust in companies headquartered in Japan rose nine points to 69% (Swiss companies are the most trusted, while Chinese and Indian companies are still in the realm of distrust at 40% and 39% respectively). The UAE, Indonesia and India have an especially positive view of Japanese companies.

Only the Japanese themselves expressed less trust in their corporations: 64%, down two points on 2018.

Edelman's study canvassed 33,000 people globally; the sample size in China and the US was 500, while in other markets including Japan it was 200.

Campaign Japan

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