The number of people who assume companies are guilty until proven innocent is on the rise, according to a new study by international strategic communications firm Brunswick Group. The survey of U.S. attitudes toward companies facing litigation found 47 percent agreed that “if a company is accused of wrongdoing in a lawsuit, the company is probably guilty.” That’s up from 41 percent in 1998 and 38 percent in 2002.

The survey also found an increase in the number of people who agree that increased government regulation is a good way of making more responsive to people’s needs—up to 65 percent from 55 percent in 1998 and 52 percent in 1995.

Interestingly, the number of people who feel that “business people do everything they can to make a profit even if it means ignoring the public’s need” is down to 57 percent (from 62 percent in the two previous studies) and the number who felt the board of directors of most large corporations “do not really represent the interests of shareholders” was down to 41 percent from 51 percent.

Other interesting findings:
· 42 percent agreed that if a government agency decides to investigate a large company, the company is probably guilty of wrongdoing;
· 51 percent felt that if spokesperson for a company answers “no comment” when asked about specific company behavior, the company is probably trying to cover up wrongdoing;
· 56 percent said that if a large company is accused of wrongdoing in a lawsuit, I am less likely to buy that company’s stock; and
  61 percent agreed that if a company spokesperson provides detailed answers to charges of wrongdoing, I am less likely to believe that the company is guilty.