Half the countries surveyed were classified as “distruster”, in which the overall level of trust among informed members of the public is below 50 percent. This distrust is directed towards all institutions in society — government, business, news media, and even non-government organizations (such as think tanks, charities, civil society groups, etc.)
Many of the countries with a high rate of distrust include stable and robust democracies such as Ireland, Japan, Sweden, Spain, and the U.K. Unsurprisingly, each of these countries is facing some sort of national crisis or other, ranging from pervasive economic stagnation to difficulty responding to the migrant crisis.
Other developed and free societies such as the Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the U.S. were “neutral” — that is, with roughly equal numbers of people trustful and distrustful towards institutions — but still below the global average. These countries are often politically polarized, with citizens split on a range of national issues.
Perhaps most interesting is the minority countries with a high level of public trust, which include autocracies such as the United Arab Emirates and China, semi-democracies like Singapore, new and/or fragile democracies like Indonesia (and arguably India), and highly prosperous countries such as the Netherlands.
These results go to show that trust is a fickle thing, contingent on a range of factors beyond whether a society if free or democratic (which has long been considered the primary prerequisite for building social cohesion and public trust). Some autocracies manage to have a lot of trust directed towards their governments (or more likely their private sector institutions), others do not; some robust democracies continue to earn the trust of citizens, others continue to disappoint (regardless of their success elsewhere).
The Economist offers some additional insights: