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Women and Newcomers are Most Trusting Canadians

April 19, 2017

TORONTO, ON – April 19, 2017 – Canadians are proud of qualities that make our country different from others, and enduring levels of trust across government and business appears to be the latest example, according to the 2017 CanTrust Index.  There is no doubt that recent events in some nations point to waning consumer trust and rejection of elites, and it may be tempting to paint the Canadian trust landscape with this same broad brush. However, the newest research finds that trust among Canadians is holding steady in most areas, and in some cases, trust is growing.

The CanTrust Index looks at trust levels in various entities to do what is right for Canada, Canadians and our society among Canadians overall, examining Newcomers (those who have been in Canada 15 years or less) and trends between genders and regions. This year, we find the highest levels of trust are with new Canadians, women, and residents of Québec. In contrast, people living in Western Canada are less trusting in several areas we surveyed.

“Our data tells a uniquely Canadian story – not one of despair, but one of hope – when it comes to levels of consumer trust in this country,” says Bruce MacLellan, CEO of Environics Communications. “As Canadians, the many universal and accessible public services we enjoy have fostered a strong sense of trust in hospitals, universities, government and elected leaders. We also see enduring trust in news organizations and key sectors of the economy such as food retailers, drug stores, and small business.”

High trust in not-for-profit sector leads in steady category

The overall pecking order when it comes to levels of trust in Canada’s major sectors has not changed significantly in the past year. Overall, the not-for-profit sector continues to be most trusted, by 57% of respondents, to do what is right for Canada, Canadians and our society. The news media ranks second at 50%, down slightly from 54% in 2016. Small and medium-sized businesses rank third at 41%, also down slightly from 44% last year. Governments rank next at 39%, a virtually identical result to 2016, and large corporations retain their hold on the last place at 27%.

As with the 2016 CanTrust Index, New Canadians hold higher levels of trust in all sectors, with government being the largest difference in 2017 at 64% (tied with not-for-profits) when compared with trust among the general population (at 39%). Trust comes in large part from having positive experiences, and new Canadians seem to be pleased with their country of choice.

Regionally, people in Québec are generally the most trusting, particularly of small/medium sized enterprises (55%) and large corporations (44%). In contrast, trust levels among Ontarians stand at 34% and 22% in these categories, respectively.

Trust in CEOs and senior bosses still highest; trust in Premiers lowest

For a second year, the CanTrust Index asked Canadians about their trust in the leaders in their lives and at work, at local and national levels. Once again, Canadians ranked their CEO or most senior boss as the leader they trust the most, at 51%. Women scored their bosses higher at 54%.  Virtually tied for first were mayors at 50%, the Prime Minister at 44%, and Premiers were last at 30%. Calgarians are least likely to trust their Premier (21%), below Torontonians (28%) and Ontarians more broadly at 26%, suggesting that relatively low popularity of Premiers Wynne and Notley is negatively impacting trust levels.

Women are more likely than men to trust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (46% vs. 40%). Higher trust is also seen amongst people in Ontario (49%), Québec (45%) and Atlantic Canada (56%). On the other hand, Calgarians have the lowest trust for the Prime Minister at 27%. Thankfully, people in Calgary like their Mayor, who received a 55% trust rating.

Among New Canadians, trust in public figures is higher across the board, and we see an increase in their trust in Prime Minister Trudeau (64%). This group also trusts their CEOs and bosses (61%) more than Canadians as a whole (51%).

“In the wake of a rise in protectionism and distrust in immigrants in some countries, our two years of data suggests a culture where New Canadians are driving a hopeful future for companies and governments in Canada seeking to build consumer trust,” said MacLellan.

A new leader on the scene, President Donald Trump of the United States, sets a new low for trust by Canadians at only 13%, when asked how much they trust the new POTUS to have a positive impact on the two nations and their working relationship. Among females, this trust level is only 8%. We asked this question just before Prime Minister Trudeau visited Washington, D.C.

It is hospitals that are high, while marijuana manufacturers are at the bottom

When asked to rank their overall level of trust in the various industry and public sector categories, Canadians report the highest trust levels for hospitals (62%), followed closely by universities and colleges (60%). The highest private sector industries were retail pharmacies at 48% and food retailers at 45%.

The industries that have the lowest trust levels amongst respondents are energy, pipelines and resources (26%), pharmaceutical companies (22%), real estate agents and brokers (21%), social media platforms (20%) and marijuana producers (13%).  Responses from Canadians about their level of trust in the marijuana industry – an emerging industry we examined this year – show that this industry has much work to do to build trust. Trust levels around issues related to marijuana manufacturers are the lowest of low, potentially placing governments in a precarious position as legalization proceeds.

Product sampling and word-of-mouth still top-trusted information sources

Canadians continue to trust people they know, as well as their direct experience with products and brands, more than any other sources of information about a brand, service or product. This year, 76% of study participants cite sampling a product or service as their most trusted source of information about a brand, product or organization (up from 73% in 2016). Word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know come in a close second at 74%, which is on par with our data from 2016.  Significantly more New Canadians – and more women than men – trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know.

Editorial content, or stories in media like newspapers, TV, radio or online news sites, remains the third most trusted source of information, with a trust score of 57%. People in Québec have higher trust levels in traditional and online editorial content (at 67%) than the national average.

When looking at preferences related to online news sources only, search engines (newly added to this year’s survey) ranked as the most preferred source of news about current events at 71% (even higher than word-of-mouth).

Only 27% of respondents indicate that they trust information shared by a company or organization on social media, but we see a different story when it comes to information shared on social by a friend or family member. Forty-two per cent of Canadians trust information shared on social media by friends or family members – reiterating the value of word-of-mouth and information from people we know are acting as an information filter.

Trust in blogs from ‘bloggers you follow’ is at 29%, down five points from 2016 – a drop in trust in blogger content could be attributed to concerns about biased, sponsored posts or fake reviews.

“Influencer marketing offers brands an authentic way to communicate with people, but with recent concern around fake reviews, and greater transparency around sponsored payment, trust in this source is being challenged,” says Vanessa Eaton, Senior Vice President at Environics Communications. “It serves as a reminder to marketers of the importance of finding the right ‘fit’ with influencers, building strong relationships and creating authentic, credible content.”

The CanTrust Index also examined differences in trust between higher and lower household income (HHI). Using $60,000 HHI as the boundary, the research found no significant differences in trust between these households.

About the CanTrust Index

The 2017 CanTrust Index, based upon an annual online survey of a sample of 1,500 Canadians 18+ years of age, was conducted between January 16 to 26, 2017.  It is nationally representative by region, age, and gender.

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About Environics Communications

With 250 awards for client work and industry leadership, over 130 staff in Canada and the United States and annual fee income of more than $17 million, independently-owned Environics Communications offers integrated communications solutions that build trust and engage audiences. As a brand steward to some of North America’s most respected and well-known companies, the firm’s strategic approach is guided by data-driven research, deep subject expertise and smart creative. Named IABC/Toronto’s Large Agency of the Year in both 2014 and 2015, ranking #6 on the Great Place to Work® 2016 list of Canada’s Best Workplaces for Women, and #13 overall, Environics Communications has offices in Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa and Washington, DC. A corporate leader in the age of climate change, the agency has been carbon neutral since 2008. Environics collaborates with independently-owned WE Agency (formerly Waggener Edstrom), reaching more than 100 additional international markets.

For more information please contact:

Kelly Olive, Environics Communications