Six Percent of Americans Trust Social Media

Fewer than one out of ten American adults -- a measly 6%! -- say they consider social media companies “generally honest and trustworthy,” according to The Harris Poll, which has been tracking trust in major industries over the last decade. That number is so pathetically small we might as well just go ahead and say “Americans don’t trust social media.”

Oh, but it gets worse: you know a business is broadly disliked when it trustworthiness ranking is lower than telecoms (7%) and the health insurance industry (7%). In fact the only industries that ranked lower in trustworthiness than social media were oil companies (4%) and tobacco companies (3%). Basically we are looking at the bottom of the barrel here, folks.

While it’s cold comfort at best, it’s worth noting that Americans’ trust in all major industries appears to be declining: out of 19 industries tracked by Harris, every single one saw public trust decline over the last year, except tobacco (which was already skipping along rock bottom). For example, supermarkets, the most trusted category in this and past years, fell from 38% in 2012 to 30% this year. But I mean… 6%?  Right between BP and Philip Morris? That is egregious. 

The reasons for this damning indictment are not far to find: somehow people have gotten the crazy notion that Facebook keeps on fiddling around its privacy policies, to the degree that no one can even keep up any more, all in order to put more and more of everyone’s personal information at the disposal of marketers for advertising purposes (of course, nothing could be further from the truth). Add to that concerns about their ability to protect login information, their apparent reluctance to help tackle online bullying, and their alleged (though oft-denied) cooperation with NSA eavesdropping, and, well, yeah, I guess maybe they don’t look so super.

But there was some good news in the Harris Poll. While vanishingly few Americans may trust social media companies, neither are they particularly inclined to subject them to government regulation: just 15% of Americans polled wanted more government oversight of the social media industry, compared to 34% for health insurance companies, 35% for tobacco companies, 39% for pharmaceutical and drug companies, and 41% for oil companies.

In juxtaposition these figures seem to suggest that most Americans are confident in their ability to handle social media on their own, because they believe they see social media companies for what they are -- a bunch of greedy hucksters. Not exactly the most flattering conclusion, but there it is.

1 comment about "Six Percent of Americans Trust Social Media".
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  1. Judy Bellem from SMM Advertising, December 12, 2013 at 4:25 p.m.

    Well. As a social marketer I say it's better to know the truth and not turn a blind eye to reality. Statistics aside, I most thoroughly enjoyed how well written this piece is - great comic relief for the end of the day, thank you.

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