Just 29% of the British public are confident that the UK government is making the right decisions, and 38% trust business, according to research from the public relations firm Edelman, which said that trust in governments and businesses has slumped worldwide.
In the UK there is also a worrying gap between people's expectations of government and their perceptions of its performance. This is most marked in relation to the economy, where 71% of those surveyed believe that the government needs to effectively manage the country's financial affairs, but only 12% think that this is happening.
"We've seen a huge chasm open up between the public's expectation of government and what they think it actually delivers," Ed Williams, Edelman's UK chief executive, said at an event in London, ahead of the report's formal launch at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"Trust in the government is in the toilet," Williams said. "The public simply don't believe in politicians to tell the truth, and the vast majority think the country is on the wrong track."
In a panel debate following the report release, Labour MP Tessa Jowell said that she was not surprised by the results.
"The generality of politicians have been languishing for a while in terms of trust," she said.
"I think that part of this reflects the extent to which people are faced with the anxiety and fear and uncertainty of what's happening in the economy, where their world, where the world of their family is going to be in six months… It's important to remember that people feel as if they are living on the edge. That's why they are retreating more into the relationships that they trust."
It is not just trust in government, however. As reflected by the increasing pressure on the coalition to deal with runaway executive pay, trust in CEOs has also fallen, with the public believing almost any company spokesperson - from average workers to analysts - ahead of the boss.
Globally, the past few years had seen trust in governments return, as the perceived failure of large businesses, particularly in the financial industry, saw individuals lose their faith in the private sector. Governments, who intervened in the banking sector at huge public cost, had been regaining some of their credibility since 2008.
However, Richard Edelman, Edelman's global president and CEO, said "Then came 2011, and this was the year that the wheels came off for government."
Edelman said that the political paralysis in the eurozone, the partisanship of US politics, as well as perceptions of corruption and ineffectiveness in emerging markets, such as Brazil and India, has contributed to a general, global loss of trust in government.
Business, but in particular CEOs, who are increasingly seen as overpaid and underperforming. This trend touches not just the high profile failures, such as MF Global's John Corzine, who oversaw the broker's collapse, but "it's also the Occupy Wall Street theme of the haves and have nots. CEOs are perceived as making too much money, relative to the average working person," Edelman said.
Technology is the most trusted industry across the world. Banks and financial services companies are the least trusted. In Germany, France and Italy, trust in banks is as low as 20%, Edelman said.
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