02/03/2015 12:27 EST | Updated 02/03/2015 12:59 EST

Canadians' Trust In Business Suffers 'Dramatic Decline': Survey

Zoran Zeremski via Getty Images

There has been an “alarming evaporation of trust” in Canada’s institutions, particularly in businesses, according to new research from public relations firm Edelman.

The firm’s Trust Barometer survey found 47 per cent of Canadian respondents said they trust business, down 15 percentage points from last year’s survey.

Those are “some of the lowest levels ever seen in this country,” Edelman said in a statement. Canada saw the largest drop in trust in business of any of the 27 countries surveyed.

CEOs were the least trusted group, with just 27 per cent expressing faith in the country’s chief executives. That squares more or less with an earlier survey of trust in professions, which found CEOs near the bottom of the trusted list, along with car salespeople, telemarketers and bloggers.

But growing distrust of business appears to be a global phenomenon, and the number of “truster” countries — where more than 50 per cent of people trust their institutions — is at an all-time low, Edelman said.

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Canada ceased to be a “truster” country with this year’s survey, with just 47 per cent of respondents saying they trusted institutions overall. Trust in government declined slightly, to 49 per cent from 51 per cent, while trust in media fell to 47 per cent from 58 per cent.

“This drop in trust is not entirely surprising given some of the press that business has received this past year,” Edelman Canada CEO John Clinton said in a statement. “From data breaches and auto recalls to significant bad press around corporations not paying interns, it’s not hard to see why trust in business has dropped as much as it has.”

"Heightened cynicism over the business world’s persistent pursuit of innovation may also be hindering public trust," the Edelman report said, noting that 53 per cent of Canadians say the pace of business innovation in Canada is too fast.

That may be a reflection of consumers' distrust of certain innovations such as fracking (36 per cent trust it) and genetically modified foods (23 per cent trust it).

So who do Canadians trust? In the online world, where false information is just a click away, Canadians prefer to get their information from friends and family, and academic experts, both of which had the trust of 70 per cent of respondents.

Among businesses, Canadians see family-owned enterprises as the most trust-worthy (79 per cent), while state-owned business are considered less trustworthy, at 45 per cent.

Big business was the least trusted, earning the faith of just 41 per cent of respondents.

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