2023 Edelman Trust Barometer: Malaysian Businesses Witness Drop In Trust Levels

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, Malaysia’s Trust Index Score has decreased by 3 points from its 2022 score, averaging at 62 points, and dropping 3 places from its position last year. The country now ranks 9th on the Global Trust Index.

The findings highlighted that Malaysia’s core institutions saw a decline in trust, with the government and media falling below the trusted region into neutral territory, at 54 and 55 points respectively.

The government’s trust level has plummeted by 8 points to 54, while the media’s score dropped by 5 points to 55, in comparison to 2022.

Additionally, businesses and NGOs saw a slight drop in trust by 2 and 1 points, respectively with trust levels currently at 68% and 69%.

Malaysians’ top five fears are consistent with those of other countries: slow economic development, worsening prejudice/discrimination, inability to address societal challenges, the end of democracy, and personal financial struggles.

One of the reasons cited behind Malaysians’ growing fears is the country’s weakening economic landscape, both in the country and around the world seeing a collapse in economic optimism this year.

Only 35% of Malaysians believe they and their families will be better off in five years, representing a 20-point decline from 2022. This ties in with the rise of citizens’ personal anxieties, which are now on par with societal existential fears.

In response, 96% Malaysians are concerned about losing their jobs due to the nation’s economic decline, with climate change (82%) and the possibility of nuclear war (79%) being persistent worries.

The 2023 Trust Barometer further shows Malaysia as less polarised than other countries. However, Malaysia has seen a hyper-localisation of trust within their communities.

When asked if the core institutions were seen as unifying or divisive forces, Malaysians viewed journalists (41%), business leaders (46%), NGO leaders (50%), and teachers (66%) as unifying, while the government was seen as a divisive force.

Even though Malaysia is not severely polarised, there is growing concern of a potential weakening of the nation’s social fabric, with a perceived lack of civility and mutual respect (74%).

There are also growing sentiments of mass-class divide and income-based inequalities – this year’s report shows an 11-point difference between the high-income class (66 points) and the low-income mass (55 points), which sit within the trust and neutral realities, respectively.

While still within safe limits, core institutions are encouraged to act early and work towards preventing further societal division and distrust.

“While the global trend of polarisation has yet to be felt in Malaysia, a potential risk of future mass-class divide may arise from the current state of Malaysia’s economy, if left unchecked,” said Christopher de Cruz, Chief Operating Officer of Edelman Malaysia and Head of Crisis for Southeast Asia.

“Since businesses are seen as one of the trusted institutions, there is an increased expectation and social responsibility to help improve the state of the nation, from an economic as well as a social standpoint,” he added.

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