Trust is the glue that holds our society together. High levels of social and political trust lead to social cohesion and democratic stability. Ireland has seen a dramatic fall in trust for many of the institutions that traditionally held life together here - the Church, the media, the Garda, charities. In general, trust has been hugely eroded and displaced by the recent convulsions in the world - the online revolution, social media, fake news, Trump, Brexit, the rise of extremism and the increases in transparency which have laid bare corruption and incompetence across companies, organisations and democracy itself.
But trust remains a hugely important force. It is, in many ways, the last great commodity, the most important asset any individual or business, from the humble lifestyle blogger to Donald Trump, can have.
Today's Kantar Millward Brown poll provides a comprehensive snapshot of who Irish people trust. It is important to note that this poll does not measure who we don't trust. The question asked was: "Which of the following institutions/groups do you have most faith in?" So anyone mentioned enjoys some level of trust.
What will surprise many is that the Church, according to this poll, remains No 1 as the institution people have most faith in, with 26pc of respondents choosing it. What will not surprise people is that this figure is driven hugely by older people, with 45pc of those aged over 65 naming the Church as the institution in which they have most faith as against just 15pc of 18-24-years-olds. Still, these figures suggest a resilience. The Church is still the second most trusted institution or group among young people. But still, there is clearly a deep faultline here that suggests a huge generation gap in this country. Those who trust the Church most are getting older and dying.
Teachers will take comfort in the fact that they are the next most trusted group mentioned with 22pc of people naming them as the group or institution they most trust. Interestingly here, the age breakdown is the converse to the Church, with more young people naming teachers - 28pc of 18-24-year-olds - and this number dwindles as the demographic gets older - to 11pc of over 65s. This is perhaps not surprising either given that teachers are presumably a still-powerful presence in the lives of young people, while older people may have very different memories of teachers. These figures might also say something about the idealism of the young, who may view teachers as a group who are motivated by doing good rather than earning the maximum amount of money or gaining power. We trust people based on a combination of how we perceive their ability, their benevolence and their integrity. Teachers are not seen as a group who would knowingly seek to harm us, they would be perceived to have our best interests at heart, they do not seem to be on the make, and they are probably generally perceived, by the very definition of the job, as having skills or expertise. These findings also suggests that education could be seen as the last unsullied institution, a model of integrity in a world that is increasingly seen as corrupt. This year's Edelman Trust Barometer, you might recall, showed a general crisis in trust, but academics were seen by the most credible spokespeople, at 61pc.
The judiciary comes third but there is a big jump down from teachers at 22pc - just 13pc said the judiciary was the institution they trusted most. This is a reasonably good performance, but the fact that twice as many people chose the Church than those who are meant to be the guardians of justice in our society is perhaps alarming.
Three institutions that have been rocked by scandals are next and all are tied at 9pc each. Some might think it is a miracle that 9pc of people still name the Garda as their most trusted institution, but it does suggest a residual trust that could be built on - 9pc also named journalists as the group they most trusted. And 9pc named charities. Far more younger people - 14pc - named charities as their most trusted institution compared with the over-65s, only 5pc of whom named charities. This is probably reflective again of the idealism of young people and of a different experience of charities now. While older people might tend to think of scandal-hit institutions, young people possibly experience newer, more dynamic and transparent types of charities. For all the darkness we associate with the digital age, it has facilitated a more socially conscious generation, who care a lot, want to do no evil, and want to work with children and animals. Voluntary organisations and volunteering are a huge aspect of social trust and social cohesion and charity is still seen by the young as a mark of integrity. Just look at how the tech barons are tripping over themselves to do good works and to be seen to do them. Though older and more cynical people might view this as just another aspect of mogul megalomania.
While trade unions might once have been seen as one of the trusted friends of the working man and woman, only 6pc of people named them as their most trusted institution in this poll, with only 2pc of people in Dublin putting them first. Which is at least above business leaders, whom only 5pc put first. Not surprisingly, trust in business leaders lessens as people get older; 10pc of idealistic young people named them first while once people got over 25 this number halved straight away. Indeed there is a pattern right across this survey that people's faith in man's institutions diminishes as they get older, and presumably have more bad experiences of institutions. This is replaced with trust in God's institutions.
Three per cent of people chose politicians. The figure in Dublin is hugely higher at 6pc, with just 1pc in the rest of Leinster and Connacht/Ulster naming them as most trusted group. This may be more of a reflection of how people perceive the world. Those who are seen to be winning in life tend to have higher levels of political trust and those who are losing have less. More people in Dublin clearly feel the political system is working for them.
So what do we take from this? Well, the Church clearly still enjoys huge social capital among older people and a surprisingly high amount among younger people. This suggests that the Church still has a huge responsibility to push for an inclusive society where we put people's best interests at heart. The Church, despite everything, is clearly still a big brand and is seen as an institution of integrity by many people. It should cherish this trust.
The fact that so many people put most trust in teachers is hopeful, too. It suggests that young people, especially, still believe in education and educators and their integrity and benevolence. Given that most young people go through the educational system, we should perhaps focus more on its capacity to build a cohesive society and to foster a belief in society.
And the main bad news out of it all is that politicians have a lot of work to do to get back public trust. Our politicians need to start demonstrating more competence, more integrity and more of a sense that they have our best interests at heart.
As mammoth a task as that seems, that is how you build trust.