Edelman, one of the top five global public relations firms, released its 2011 Trust Barometer on January 26 2011. The report indicates that China ranked first, with 88% trust, in the world in terms of trust government. On the other hand, the United States fell from 46% to 40%. The full report can be found here.
The news was widely reported in Chinese state media outlets, but most of them did not explain the survey's methodology. Many Chinese netizens found the survey result unbelievable and raised a lot of questions, however, the comment sections of the news article in many portal websites have been shut down, such as this one in 163.com.
Yet when one search in Chinese “Edelman” (愛德曼）for blog posts in major search engines and blog hosting websites, one can find out how the survey has become a public relation disaster for Edelman.
For example, Anjing writes in her blog:
Here, I only represent myself, I am a member of the 12% population!!!…
Then I found that that 163.com has shut down the comment section. The survey was done by a public relation company!!! Public relation company!!! — it is not “your voice” not “CCAV” or “RMB web”, it is a public relation company!!
I imagine a situation like this: a huge “public relation fee” and a dirty company bring forward a disgusting figure: 88%
Heavenly Wolf has re-posted the news in his blog and there are many sarcastic remarks in the comment section, 鄭亞君 says:
In Sina Micro-blog, there a number of discussion threads on Edelman's survey result. In the comment section of Morning News‘s post, it has accumulated so far more than 511 comments. Below is a selection:
leerydesign 想讨好 中国政府也用不着这样吧，太TM出彩了(1月28日 11:19)
青天包老爷 哇，一不小心成了少数派！！或者可能已经被88%了(1月28日 00:19)
Chang_年少轻狂 冷笑话？…我表示我对爱德曼公关公司信任度下降到零。幸亏没参加调查，要不然就给国家拖后腿了…（政府不会河蟹我吧…）(1月27日 23:04)
成一语 这个公司太好了，来天朝吧，天朝就喜欢这样的主，天朝有大把的钱可以赚，只要你能是要昧着良心为天朝大唱赞歌就行。(1月27日 17:41)
怡静若斯 没见过把假话说的这么假的(1月27日 17:17)
lee嘵姐 啊呀！还有一项调查，中国90%的人都是不拉屎的！(1月27日 13:58)
双鱼郎 今天是愚人节？(1月27日 11:25)
大贱圣 坑爹呢这是？？？收入排名前25%的高端人群，估计里面有80%是太子党，控制了中国90%以上的资产，他们不满意谁满意？我爸又不是李刚(1月27日 09:49)
Confronted with the public relation disaster, Edelman has posted an explanation to their survey's methodology in their official website:
This post is in response to comments here regarding the findings in China. The 2011 Trust Barometer survey measures a distinct audience – informed publics who meet the following criteria: college-educated, top quartile of income by age group, and follows business/news media and policy issues at least several times a week. Additionally, the study was conducted by phone in three urban areas within China: Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Therefore, the results are not reflective of the general population. The methodology has been consistent for 11 years and is included in all of our printed materials on the study, as well as the website – including a statement on the survey sample.
However, it is unlikely that the statement can restore Edelman's credibility among Chinese netiznes as the result is so far away from ordinary Chinese people's common sense. For example, Anarchy253873 comments after the official statement:
We just find the results incredibly unconvincing. To be precise, the 88% trust meter of China is an absolute joke. 55% percent is my best estimation. The methodology must be serious flawed. This result is totally misleading for people elsewhere. There could be several reasons for that:
1.You have not taken the political situation in consideration. Chinese people so far only have limited freedom of speech, especially when it comes to expressing negative attitude towards the government.But I think that's not the case. Edelman inc could not have made such a rookie mistake.
5 percent chance.
2.You tried to collect some real opinions but are fed with people who are actually representatives of the Communist party. Things like this happen all the time. You are not the first and won't be the last. But still the validity of this survey is poor.
60 percent chance.
3.You cooperated with the Chinese government in exchange for your business profit in China. In other words, you just sold your soul for money, same old story. PR firms sometimes have to give in for survival.But that does not justify a fraud report.
35 percent chance.
So which is it?