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Press release
Social and Strategic Research|Belgium|English

Belgians trust the military the most, political parties are at the bottom

Leuven, 17.05.2017

The Institutions and Economic Sectors Global Trust Report 2017, conducted by GfK Verein, is an International study carried out in over 25 countries to investigate trust in either institutions and industries. Against the backdrop of the politically and economically significant events which took place in 2016, the fourth edition of the Global Trust Report published by GfK Verein not only reveals at times surprising stability in terms of the trust expressed by citizens and consumers in social institutions and economic sectors, but also presents a series of noteworthy changes.

In light of the ongoing terror threat and the need to cope with the refugee crisis, both the police and the military have experienced an increase in trust in Belgium as well as in countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. At the other end of the spectrum, events in Turkey in summer 2016 have seen trust in the security forces fall significantly in the country. In Italy, the failed referendum in autumn 2016 led to the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose government most recently witnessed a slight increase in trust. Italian banks remain a cause for concern, however, including in terms of the very low level of trust bestowed upon them by citizens.

In the UK, the referendum on the country's withdrawal from the EU and the subsequent change in government have led to a rise in the trust awarded to the government and to British political parties. In the USA, in contrast, the presidential election campaign prompted a decline in the trust felt for Obama's government, which was still in power at the time of the survey, as well as an even greater drop in the confidence placed in the country's political parties. It remains to be seen how much trust the Trump administration will instill. In France, the amount of trust engendered by the government and political parties in the run up to the April 2017 presidential election remains extremely low.

At 57%, the average level of trust placed in institutions in the countries studied in 2017 remains virtually stable. Of all the institutions included in the survey, the military once again occupies pole position in the global comparison with an unchanged score of 79%, topping the ranking in 11 of the 25 countries studied. Political parties find themselves last on the global scale with 28%.

The European common currency, the euro, enjoys a positive year, as in all the countries surveyed its rating remains stable or even increases, as in countries such as France, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands. Currency is in second place in the international comparison of institutions. Around two-thirds of people trust their respective local currency, which represents a slight overall decline compared with 2015.

Of all the sectors examined, the newly added clothes and footwear manufacturing industry is in pole position in six countries. With a global average of 75%, it also ranks as the most trustworthy sector. Trade follows closely behind with a rating of 74%, topping the table in 8 countries. At the opposite end of the scale, the automotive industry – rocked by emissions scandals and product recalls – has suffered a significant loss of trust in a number of countries, particularly in Germany, Japan, Italy, Sweden and the USA.

The average level of trust placed by all countries in the economic sectors investigated by the study stands at 69% in 2017. This figure can only be compared with the results from previous years to a limited extent because three new sectors have been added to the survey.

About Belgium

Although the trust expressed by Belgians in their country's economic sectors and institutions remains stable on average in 2017, there have been a number of changes in the individual ratings. For example, the military (86%) and police (84%) have recorded noteworthy gains in trust, resulting in the army even replacing the police at the top of the ranking. Observers had already put Belgium at high risk of terrorist attacks in 2015. After the terrorist attacks in March 2016, it is probable that the effective response to the attacks has heightened people’s confidence in the security forces.

The current Belgian government led by Prime Minister Charles Michel has been in power since the end of 2014. Its work is therefore being appraised by this study for the first time. The results make pleasant reading for Michel, as the confidence rating has risen from 40% to 47% compared with the level of trust inspired by the previous government. The proportion of citizens putting trust in the justice system (60%) has also increased by 7 percentage points. The Belgian economy also enjoyed positive growth in 2015. However, the trust felt for large companies has declined noticeably by 10 percentage points to 35%, putting these institutions in penultimate place. This could partly be attributed to tax legislation, which reduced the corporate income tax rate for international corporations. The EU has since declared this practice as unlawful. Viewed as reliable by just under a quarter of the population, political parties are the only institution to fare more poorly than large companies.

The industries at the very top of the economic sectors ranking have slightly consolidated their lead, each seeing a slight increase in their ratings. As was also the case in previous years, Belgians find trade the most trustworthy economic sector (85%). With 82%, airlines reside in second place, having overtaken commerce, which now finds itself third in the ranking, jointly tied with the newly added toy manufacturing sector on 77%. The sectors at the lower end of the scale, on the other hand, are witnessing a decline in trust. Here, food manufacturers and the financial sector share last place, both with 56%. The automotive industry has suffered a very noticeable drop in popularity, losing 17 percentage points to land in third-to-last place.

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