A pessimistic population means 'Yellow Vest' protests could become more mainstream, new survey warns

Key Points
  • There is a growing feeling of distrust in government and the media among the general population.
  • There has been a 3 percent increase between 2018 and 2019 in the level of distrust towards the government and the media. Overall, the general feeling of distrust has hit a record high this year from 2017.
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Trust gap between elite and the mass population larger than ever: Edelman

France has seen repeated street and violent protests over the last two months – a scenario that could become more mainstream worldwide, the Edelman Trust Barometer Report warned Sunday.

There is a growing feeling of distrust in governments and the media among the general population, according to the Edelman report.

It states that there has been a 3 percent increase between 2018 and 2019 in the level of distrust towards the government and the media. Overall, the general feeling of distrust has hit a record high this year from 2017.

There is also a clear difference between mass population and the informed public, with the return to the largest-ever trust gap between these two, since 2017. This trust gap is particularly evident in developed countries, including the U.K., Canada, France and the United States. But it is also growing in developing countries such as India and China.

"The last decade has seen a loss of faith in traditional authority figures and institutions," said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman.

Stephen Kehoe, global chair, Reputation, said in a press release: "Divergent levels of confidence between the mass population and informed public about the future signal a continued underlying rot in the structure of society."

"While not everyone is taking to the streets, the data shows why protests like the Gilet Jaunes in France, the women's marches in India and walkouts by employees at some major tech companies could become more mainstream," he added.

The "Gilet Jaunes" or "Yellow Vest" protests began in mid-November over higher fuel taxes, which were subsequently scrapped, and have since morphed into a broader demonstration against the government.

A protester waves a French flag during clashes with police at a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. 
Benoit Tessier | Reuters
Only 1 in 5 people believe the system is working for them

Among the mass population, 46 percent said that the system is failing them, while 34 percent were not sure. However, 70 percent of them said they desire change.

Even among the informed public, there is a clear dissatisfaction with the global system. Only 21 percent of them said the system is working for them.

Who should lead change?

Amid this feeling of distrust and pessimism, 76 percent of respondents said that CEOs should lead change rather than waiting for the government to impose it.

The general feeling is that top managers will be able to implement positive change in areas such as equal pay, discrimination, personal data and the environment.

The report was published ahead of the start of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, where 1,700 business leaders from all industries will gather for a four-day summit.

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