Who You Gonna Trust for Virus News? (Surprise!)

NEW YORK NY – When it comes to getting credible news about coronavirus, a majority of people interviewed March 6-10 (2020; Friday through Tuesday) as part of a 10-country survey that included United States residents said their employers rank higher than the media, their governments, or health-related companies as trustworthy sources of information.

Only scientists and family physicians finished above bosses on the trust scale, according to results from a survey that was part of a special report created by Daniel J. Edelman Holdings Inc. It’s a global public relations firm with offices in New York, Washington DC, and 11 other U.S. cities.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they would trust information from their employers after one or two reported exposures, compared to 58 percent for a government website, and 51 percent for traditional media.

The reason? Sixty-two percent said they believe their employers are best prepared “to respond effectively and responsibly” to the disease. In eight of the 10 countries covered by the survey, employers were perceived to be better prepared than national authorities to deal with COVID-19. And 63 percent want employers themselves to provide their workers with daily coronavirus updates.

Expertise matters, those surveyed also showed. Scientists and “my doctor” hold the most coveted opinions, with trust scores of 83 percent and 82 percent, respectively. Respondents also placed an emphasis on community information. Sixty-three percent trusted their neighbors or peers, or “a person like yourself,” as the survey put it.

Timeliness matters too. Seven of every 10 survey respondents said they were checking for information at least once daily, and 33 percent said they check several times daily.

Concerns about fake virus news and false information are high. Bad or malicious information worries 74 percent of those who responded. Although journalists and government officials ranked poorly, they did not represent the bottom of the trust barrel. Survey results indicate “social media is the least trusted source of information in developed markets,” Edelman added.

All these results, Edelman said, point to high public expectations from businesses. Seventy-eight percent of respondents expect business to protect employees and the local community. Seventy-nine expect businesses to adapt their operations, including remote working, canceling non-essential events, and enacting business travel bans.

Employees also expect businesses will be transparent. They “want clarity on everything,” Edelman said, “from how many colleagues have contracted the virus (57 percent) to how the virus is affecting the organization’s ability to operate (53 percent).

Despite the comparative lack of trust in governments for straight answers, those surveyed said they would trust a business-government partnership to act more effectively against coronavirus than either might attempt alone.

Photo from The News Market, used under special license