The just-released 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer finds that trust in US institutions showed the biggest drop in the poll’s 18-year history, plummeting nine points to 43 percent among the general population and a staggering 23 percent plunge 45 percent among the “informed public.”

Among the informed public, trust in American institutions ranked dead last, lagging behind countries such as Russia, Poland, South Africa, Turkey and Mexico.

Commenting on the dismal trust numbers, Richard Edelman said the US “is enduring an unprecedented crisis of trust.”

Trust Barometer

He noted that it’s the first time that the massive plunge in trust wasn’t linked to a faltering economy or catastrophe. “The root cause of this fall is the lack of objective facts and rational discourse,” he said.

The Barometer finds a buoyant China surging to the top of the trusted list among both the general and informed publics. India, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates trail China.

The report finds the media in free fall, ranking for the first time as the least trusted institution. It pins the lack of confidence in media on the collapse of trust in platforms such as search engines and social media.

The poll finds that nearly 60 percent of respondents believe the media are politicized and about half say they are elitist. Nearly two-thirds agree that the average person cannot distinguish between good journalism and false information.

In the Barometer’s executive summary, Edelman warns of a world “without common facts and objective truth, weakening trust even as the global economy recovers.”

He blames the rise of disinformation for undermining the very essences of rational discourse and decision-making.

“Fortunately, we are already seeing the first signs of regret about over-dependence on peers and blind reliance on populist leaders,” wrote Edelman. “People’s concern about fake news and their willingness to listen to experts show that they yearn for knowledge.”

The media, which is suffering from economic and political restraints, can’t solve the trust problem alone. “Every institution must play its part by educating its constituents and joining the public debate, going direct to the end-users of information,” wrote Edelman. “That means taking the informed risk to join the battle for truth so that facts triumph over fears.”