We trust the internet more than we do government. That seems to be what this survey from The Guardian is telling us. (Yes it is only one survey – so I understand).
The image above represent part of the answer to the question “Which of the following institutions do you trust?” – blue means not all all, yellow a little, red a lot. It tells us far more people trust the internet a little than they do all of our major layers of government (and the press).
What might be going on here?:
- Perhaps people are expressing trust for the relationships they make on the internet? 89% of people responded to another part of the survey by saying they trust their friends (only 73% said the same of spouse/partner!).
- Are we more likely to trust things we find on the net a little because we have choice there? We can go to other bits of the net to find a better version of what we need. We can’t do that with government.
- As a development of the above, we are in control on the net – we navigate the journey. How true is that of government?
- When government lets us down it tends to do it in a more meaningful way than a web page which doesn’t load fast enough or spouts garbage. With government much more closely involved in important things in out life we’re more likely to feel strongly about it.
- It’s no surprise few people trust the internet a lot – the internet is not an institution. In fact asking people to compare the internet with the EU is a bit daft.
Of course it could just be wrong?
I just had a look at that question on the Guardian survey, and they phrase it so broadly that it’s meaningless (as I think you point out in point 5). What does “trust the internet” mean? If it means to believe unquestioningly anything one reads on the internet, than that’s worrying; on the other hand, if you could choose the internet as one of your phone-a-friends on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” then I think you’d be foolish to go for a local government officer or police officer.
Interestingly, people still trust the police, TV and radio more than the internet. What about radio broadcast over the internet, or a Facebook page run by the police? Hmmmm…
To respond to your points, I’d agree that the reason people would trust the internet is probably that they are in control and feel they can find the information they want. However, that presumably wouldn’t explain why more people trust the police than local government, or why people trust TV and radio more than the internet.
Your point about is being confusing is strengthened by the list of ways people defined what they mean by trust in the survey:
Well at least it’s a pretty graphic and working out what it means is a nice bit of brain-training.