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Budget 2021

Associate Partners:

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Public trust crumbles amid COVID, fake news: Survey

The Edelman Trust Barometer, which for two decades has polled thousands of people on their trust in core institutions, found 57% of people believe government leaders, business chiefs and journalists are spreading falsehoods or exaggerations.

January 13, 2021 / 12:54 PM IST
Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Trust in governments, business chiefs and media is crumbling amid a perceived mis-handling by leaders of the coronavirus pandemic and a widespread feeling among ordinary citizens that they are being misled, a global survey has found.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, which for two decades has polled thousands of people on their trust in core institutions, found 57% of people believe government leaders, business chiefs and journalists are spreading falsehoods or exaggerations.

Breaking out responses according to a person's media habits and voting patterns, the survey found a greater hesitancy on vaccines among those who rely mostly on social media, and underlined the polarization of politics in the United States.

"The violent storming of the U.S. Capitol last week and the fact that only one-third of people are willing to get a COVID vaccine crystalize the dangers of misinformation," said Richard Edelman, whose Edelman communications group produces the survey.

The figure cited by Edelman referred to the fact that an average of only 33% of respondents in 27 countries covered by the survey said they would take the vaccine as soon as possible. A further 31% said they would take it within a year.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The survey was conducted between Oct. 19 and Nov. 18 among more than 33,000 respondents, with a supplement carried out in December after the U.S. presidential election.

GOVERNMENTS LESS TRUSTED

Governments, which in a previous survey conducted early in the pandemic saw a bounce in their trust ratings from publics who wanted them to prioritise saving lives over the economy, saw sharp losses in trust levels as the year progressed.

As a whole, confidence in the institution of government fell from an all-time high of 65% last May to 53% by year-end. Losses were particularly acute in South Korea, Britain and China.

Trust in media, which had already been ebbing in the survey since 2019, fell further. Confidence in traditional media outlets dropped 8 points to 53% although they still attracted more trust than social media, which fell five points to 35%.

Strong national majorities across the board considered media was doing a poor job at being objective and non-partisan, with Japan in Asia, Italy in Europe and Argentina in South America all registering particularly high scores of mistrust.

In the United States, levels of trust diverged according to political affiliation: while 63% of Joe Biden voters trusted journalists, that figure fell to 21% for voters of Donald Trump, who has long denigrated mainstream media as "fake news".

Despite the fact that business leaders were suspected by a majority of engaging in falsehoods and exaggerations, they nonetheless came out of the survey with better overall trust levels than either governments or the media.

Nine in 10 respondents said they wanted CEOs to speak out on the pandemic's impact, labour and societal issues and more than two-thirds expect them to step in when the government does not fix problems.
Reuters
first published: Jan 13, 2021 12:50 pm

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