Where In The World Are Small Business Owners Trusted?

small business owners

Message to small business owners around the world: If you want to be loved, move to America.

In the United States, small business owners are held in high esteem. A 2010 Pew Foundation survey found that 71 percent of Americans see small business as a positive influence “on the way things are going in this country” – a larger fraction, in fact, than see religious organizations as a positive factor. In the United States, small businesses are viewed more favorably than most institutions.

However, the top ranking of small business isn’t true the world over. Consider the situation in China. For its 2013 Trust Barometer, public relations firm Edelman surveyed over 25,000 people in 26 nations in the fall of 2012.

The survey showed that 86 percent of U.S. respondents trust small business “a great deal,” while only 55 percent of them trust big business “a great deal.” In China, by contrast, only 65 percent of respondents trust small business “a great deal,” while 89 percent trust big business that much.

Edelman’s survey reveals an interesting contrast between industrialized and developing nations. In industrialized countries, respondents trusted small business more than big business: 76 percent to 53 percent. In developing countries, they trusted big business more than small business: 79 percent to 70 percent.

Of course, there’s another way to look at these data. People around the world generally trust businesses. In the United States, big business has squandered some of that trust, while small business has held on to it.


Editor’s Note:  We’ve embedded the Edelman Trust Barometer report below. Jump to slide 16 to see the variations between small businesses and larger businesses in selected areas.

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Scott Shane Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of nine books, including Fool's Gold: The Truth Behind Angel Investing in America ; Illusions of Entrepreneurship: and The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By.

12 Reactions
  1. That trust is a precious commodity in the business world. Nobody should be squandering it.

    • I agree. It’s takes time and extreme care to build and maintain trust. Once it’s been soiled, it can be virtually impossible to regain it.


  2. Jennifer @ Outright

    Wow, just another example of cultural relativity. I’m really set in my American ways – I never imagined that small business owners weren’t esteemed the world over. Thanks for the eye opener!

  3. Hi Robert and Jennifer,

    I am not surprised. About 15 to 20 years ago when I spent time in the UK and Europe, there was a similar attitude – large businesses were seen as offering more security than small businesses. However, it has changed a lot in the UK since then, I see.

    We embedded the trust barometer above, and you can see that from slide 16.


  4. This is great news for the small business community. It makes sense because many Americans blame large corporations for the decline of middle class jobs.