Connecting Dots Across Asia's Tech and Urban Landscape
Connecting Dots Across Asia's Tech and Urban Landscape

To Save Lives Or To Save Jobs — Which Do People Think Should Come First In This Pandemic?

A survey reveals what global markets think the government should prioritise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Globally, the public thinks that the highest priority of the government is to save as many lives as possible, Edelman reveals in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update published last month.

67% of over 13,200 respondents agreed that the priority of the governments during the COVID-19 pandemic should be health, even if this means that the economy will sustain more damages and that the road to recovery will be much slower.

A shift in trust

Edelman created a metric for the overall level of trust across the four key institutions of society: Government, Business, Media, and Non-government Organisations (NGOs). It is known as the Trust Index.

For Spring 2020, the Trust Index obtained a record-setting overall value of 61 — a six-percentage-point improvement from the measurement in the beginning of this year.

All four institutions have gained more public trust since January, with the Government (65%) recording the highest level. NGOs and Businesses both reached a 62% trust level. Media remains the lowest-rated among the four institutions at 56%.

Edelman noted that this may be a mere trust bubble caused by the ongoing pandemic crisis. This is supported by their observation that from 2012 to 2020, 13 out of 17 significant trust gains they have recorded are immediately succeeded by a trust loss.

The trust bubble bursting after the pandemic would not be surprising if it were to happen. This might mean that the observed uptick may only be due to the increased reliance of the public to these institutions.

“Faced with one of the biggest health and financial crises in history, people are turning to their governments for leadership and hope,” according to Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, in a press release.

Priorities identified

The respondents were also asked to identify what specific roles the government should prioritise during the pandemic. The following three were the most-specified:

  • Provide economic relief and support (86%)
  • Get the country back to normal (79%)
  • Contain the pandemic (73%)

A majority (56%) of the public believes that businesses should also help in the provision of economic relief and support. Meanwhile, the primary expectation among the NGOs is to help people cope (47%).

As for the media, the expectation, of course, is to inform the public (56%).  Traditional media (69%) continues to be the most trusted news platform among the respondents.

As for their perceived performance, the media continues to be lacklustre — only 46% of the respondents said that the media has performed “well” or “very well” in delivering original, investigative reporting to effectively communicate the status of the pandemic and its lasting impact.


The Edelman survey asked more than 13,200 respondents from 11 markets: Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, U.K. and U.S.

81% of the respondents came from the general public. The remaining portion are those considered by Edelman to be members of the ‘informed public’:

  • Aged 25-64
  • College-educated
  • In the top 25% of household income within their age bracket and respective market
  • Has significant media consumption in public policy and business news

For a more detailed explanation on how the survey was conducted and how the data were treated, you can read Edelman’s full report (PDF).

In the full report, you can also view more results and insights on the state of global trust on the society’s major institutions in the context of COVID-19.

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