Australians have moderate trust in the institution of government, with more people trusting state and local governments than the federal government. Due to issues with vaccines and interstate lockdowns, as well as allegations of sexual misconduct within the federal government, only 28% of Australians trust the federal government, compared to an average of 35% who trust state governments and 31% who trust their local leaders.
The Forrester report, The Government Trust Imperative In Australia, Q2 2022, outlines a framework to help governments strengthen trust across key citizen segments to drive mission-critical behaviours like compliance, advocacy, and engagement.
“Much like a healthy honeybee hive, human society is a finely tuned machine built on the trust between people and their governments. The above figure depicts the four ‘honeybee’ trust personas in Forrester’s framework and how likely each persona is to share personal information and to comply with government directives.”
Across all the states of Australia, residents of New South Wales (NSW) have the highest trust in government. 35% of NSW residents say they trust the federal government, compared to just 14% in Queensland. In addition, people with more education and higher incomes are more likely to trust the government than those with less education and lower incomes.
Trusted governments build unbreakable bonds with the people they serve; attract the best, most dedicated public servants; and create resilient ecosystems with partners and emerging technologies — all while minimising risk.
Four key trust drivers for the Australian government
To ensure that trust becomes an actionable strategy rather than an inspirational goal for government leaders, Forrester has identified what it refers to as trust drivers the government can pursue.
Accountability is the most important lever of trust. The best way for government institutions to win people’s trust is to fulfil their promises. Yet only 28% of people surveyed agreed that the government does everything it can to fulfil its promises.
Australian governments must invest in employee upskilling and talent development. Public servants who demonstrate competence and expertise are the next most important driver of trust. Just 36% of respondents believe that public servants are professional and capable at what they do.
Trust requires transparency that goes beyond frequent crisis communication. According to Forrester, people are more likely to trust government agencies that communicate clearly. However, just 30% of Australians surveyed agreed that the government communicates with residents clearly and transparently.
Australian governments must do more to make people feel safe. In 2021, Australian governments focused on overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and that worked: ‘The government keeps me safe’ is the best-performing trust driver, with 37% of respondents agreeing with the statement.
“Trust is fragile, and government leaders cannot rely on opinion polls or the electoral fortunes of political parties or candidates alone to drive compliance, advocacy, and engagement,” said Sam Higgins, principal analyst at Forrester.
He suggested that with the election result bringing in a new wave of change, this is the perfect opportunity for the Australian government to assess current trust levels and uncover gaps, identify blind spots, and prioritise actions that will build unbreakable bonds with the people they serve.