Canada’s Moment of Truth – 2020 CanTrust Index

April 20, 2020

Fifth annual Proof CanTrust Index reveals make or break trust moment for Canadian leaders

TORONTO, April 21, 2020 – Canada’s trust story is in many ways stable and strong. However, the 2020 Proof CanTrust Index, one of the largest and deepest studies of trust in Canada, suggests there is significant room for improvement, especially when it comes to trust in our leaders. As Canadians navigate the COVID-19 crisis, surrounded by major disruption and uncertainty, conditions will amplify both the positive and the negative aspects of leadership in this country.

“Trust is more critical now than ever. Actions taken throughout the COVID-19 crisis and recovery will not only impact an organization’s reputation, but also its long-term survival,” said Proof Strategies CEO, Bruce MacLellan. “Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan must include building trust. What Canadian leaders do now will either build or break trust.”

In Canada We Trust

Canadians have a high propensity to trust and hold very distinctive values that inform our own evaluation of trust in others. Our citizens identify very highly as Canadian and share a sense of belonging to Canada. Our research found that the stronger the sense of belonging and identification as “Canadian”, the greater the willingness to trust.

However, considering our high propensity to trust and strong feeling of Canadian identity, it is concerning that trust remains low in many areas. Our overall trust index this year hovers at 38 per cent (39 per cent in 2019 and down from 45 per cent when we began this study five years ago). The trust index increases among those with a higher disposition to trust (up to 55 per cent). Those under 50 years of age are least trusting of Canadian intuitions on an aggregate level. Younger Canadians exhibit a lower disposition to trust than older Canadians and have lower trust scores in many areas of our research.

C-suite Get a C Grade

An important area of concern, especially now, is low trust in our leaders. The overall trust level of Canadians in CEOs has fallen from 55 per cent in 2018 to 38 per cent in 2020*. Employees give their employer a C grade in efforts to build trust internally. The further employees are from the C-suite, the lower they grade their employer. Moreover, when Canadians were asked who they trust as sources of reliable information, business executives were trusted by only 28 per cent.

Although senior leaders must always remember to walk-the-talk, employees are generally more inclined to trust their direct manager. Earn the trust of your middle managers and then empower them to build the trust capacity of an organization.

“How leaders and businesses behave now and into the future will have an important impact on shaping trust levels of young and middle-aged people,” said Proof Strategies EVP, Vanessa Eaton. “The evidence is clear, teams with a higher degree of trust in their leadership are more agile and better able to navigate uncertainty. Senior leaders need to better understand trust and how to build it.”

Trust in Essential Services is Relatively Strong

Trust levels remain strong in services important during this pandemic, namely hospitals at 66 per cent, grocery stores at 58 per cent, our healthcare system at 57 per cent and banks at 48 per cent. Over five years, we see that Canadians place enduring trust in their public services and institutions. Trust in the RCMP, for example, is at 61 per cent, trust in our healthcare system is at 57 per cent, and the education system at 55 per cent.

Another distinctly Canadian feature of trust is the number of newcomers arriving with relatively higher baseline levels of trust, serving to raise the national average.

We Trust Science, and Our Media Trust is Climbing

As sources of reliable information, Canadians trust medical doctors (76 per cent) and scientists (70 percent) more than all other sources except their own friends and family (78 per cent)*. In contrast, politicians in general are trusted by only 12 per cent. It’s telling why Canadian politicians of all parties are so closely aligned with their medical advisors, unlike some politicians in the United States.

Trust in the news media is proving resilient, and up slightly to 44 per cent in 2020 over 40 per cent in 2019. This trust may grow further as people rely on the media during the COVID-19 crisis. Over half of all Canadians say they trust the institution of Canada’s free & independent press.

“In times of crisis, we need our news media and educated sources of information to be trustworthy and to communicate in a reliable and credible way,” added MacLellan. “This increase is promising.”

At the low end, bloggers, influencers and celebrity endorsers see the lowest trust, however the influence of these groups can’t be discounted. Trust varies greatly with age, almost doubling among those 25 and under.

Addendum*

In May, Proof conducted a follow up survey to measure how trust has shifted in the wake of COVID-19 reaching Canada’s shores. Since January, there has been a heartening increase in trust in several key groups of Canadians including doctors (76 per cent to 87 per cent), scientists (70 per cent to 82 per cent), not-for-profits (49 per cent to 56 per cent) and governments (33 per cent to 40 per cent). It is clear the country is putting its faith in government and essential workers to guide us through the crisis. However, the increase in trust has not been all-inclusive. In the same period, trust in CEOs has declined to an all-time low, falling from 38 per cent in January to 30 per cent in May, and demonstrating the fact CEOs need to better-understand the values of their employees and how to communicate with them effectively during the crisis. To learn more about Proof Strategies’ updated survey from May 2020 on trust levels in Canada across industries, professions and organizational levels, check out www.cantrustindex.ca. Read Vanessa Eaton’s blog on trust levels across different industries, professions, and organizational levels.

About Proof Strategies
For leaders responsible for managing, protecting and building organizations and brands, Proof Strategies is a public relations and communications partner that “asks better questions” to create insight, grow trust and achieve success. Founded in 1994 and now with close to 300 awards for client work and industry leadership, the independently owned Proof family of companies have more than 200 team members in offices in Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa and Washington, DC. Proof Strategies collaborates with independently owned WE Communications (formerly Waggener Edstrom), reaching more than 100 additional international markets. Follow Proof Strategies at getproof.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @get_proof.

About the Proof CanTrust Index
Now in its fifth year, the Proof CanTrust Index is a leading source of research and understanding of trust in Canada. We study and analyze topics, events and population segments unique to Canada – Quebec residents, newcomers to Canada, seniors, political party supporters and where people reside. For 2020, we surveyed 1,500 Canadians in January (17-27) as COVID-19 began to sweep around the world. The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age and gender and has a confidence interval of +/- 2.5 percentage points. For more information, visit CanTrustIndex.ca.

For more information please contact:
Harry Godfrey
416-737-8751
hgodfrey@getproof.com

To view this release in French, please click here.