Poll: Trust in Big Tech Continues to Decline

A new poll from Public Affairs Council and Morning Consult, both in Washington D.C., found that the technology industry has seen the sharpest drop in trust over the past five years. During that time, its ranking fell from first to sixth.
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A new poll from Public Affairs Council and Morning Consult shows public trust in big tech has seen a sharp drop in the last five years. // Stock Photo

A new poll from Public Affairs Council and Morning Consult, both in Washington D.C., found that the technology industry has seen the sharpest drop in trust over the past five years. During that time, its ranking fell from first to sixth.

The annual Public Affairs Pulse survey polled 2,199 adults from Sept. 2-6, and explores the intersection of business, government, and society. PAC is leading nonpartisan, nonpolitical association for public affairs professionals worldwide. Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company.

For years, technology topped the list, but it slipped to fourth place in 2018 and to fifth place in 2019 and 2020. Finally, in 2021, tech has fallen into sixth place, with 32 percent of Americans now saying it is less trustworthy than other industries and only 16 percent saying it is more trustworthy.

As trust is big tech has fallen, the amount of people who believe the sector is under-regulated has grown. In 2013, only 11 percent of Americans thought tech was under-regulated, and 24 percent thought it was over-regulated. In 2021, the number flipped, with 36 percent believing the sector was under-regulated, and only 19 percent thought it was over-regulated.

Other finding from the report showed the pharmaceutical industry remained the least trustworthy of the sectors examined, with 46 percent of the public believing a pharmaceutical company to be less trustworthy than other major companies, while only 13 percent say it is more trustworthy.

“These low-trust rankings remind me of the old saying, ‘No good deed goes unpunished,’” says Doug Pinkham, Public Affairs Council president. “Despite the efforts of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries to protect the public from the pandemic, and though their scores did improve over last year, deep-rooted distrust is slow to change.”

The health insurance industry is the next lowest-ranking sector, with 41 percent calling it less trustworthy than other industries. It is right behind pharmaceuticals on the list of the most under-regulated sectors. The public has the most trust in the food and beverage sector with just 14 percent saying it is less trustworthy.

Major companies, as a group, earned a favorability rating from the public of 53 percent, the same rating received in 2020. Only 36 percent of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of major companies.

When asked whether firms are well or not across a variety of activities, the highest ratings were given to corporate efforts to provide useful products and services (63 percent say firms are generally doing a good job), serve customers (57 percent) and create jobs (52 percent). The lowest scores come from corporate attempts to support local communities (31 percent), protect the environment (24 percent), and pay top executives fairly without overpaying them (20 percent).

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