Trust in global companies and national governments has rebounded to levels not seen since the start of 2001, according to a new public opinion poll conducted by GlobeScan on behalf of the World Economic Forum. The poll also reveals that public trust in the United Nations is as high today as it was in August 2002, prior to the diplomatic breakdown over Iraq.

According to the survey, trust levels for global companies, while still very low, are now at or above where they were in December 2000 (prior to the Enron scandal) in 13 of the 18 countries for which comparable data is available.

Trust levels for national governments have similarly rebounded. In 11 of the 17 countries for which comparable data is available, the national government today enjoys the same or greater public trust as in December 2000, well before the events of 11 September 2001.

Consistent with previous research, the current poll shows that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the most trusted and global companies are the least trusted of the seven institutions tested. The United Nations comes second to NGOs across the countries surveyed, followed by national governments in the middle range.

Says Michel Ogrizek, managing director, head of communications at the World Economic Forum, “At our Annual Meeting 2003 in Davos, the Forum chose trust as our theme because we saw what we called ‘the public trust deficit’ as a worrying and urgent challenge. The fact that trust in global companies has rebounded to pre-Enron levels and trust in governments has returned to pre-September 11 levels suggests that important progress has been achieved.

“However, companies and governments cannot be cheered by simply returning to historically low levels of trust. Further, rebuilding public trust must continue to preoccupy leaders in both business and public life. Corporate responsibility initiatives and public-private partnerships can play key roles.”