Postal services with high legitimacy,Public service media have lowest backing

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)
In an international study, the Gallup AG Switzerland polling institute and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts examined the legitimacy of 25 primary care organizations in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. While postal services are particularly highly regarded by the population, public service media in all three countries have the lowest level of support.

Organizations with a public service mission are dedicated to the interests of the population. In the sense of a public service, they must provide basic services or goods. The public demand that they fulfill this task in a high quality and efficient manner is correspondingly high.

The legitimacy of such primary care organizations in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria was investigated by the opinion research institute Gallup AG, Switzerland, as the client, and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts as the scientific partner in a representative population survey. "The legitimacy of primary care organizations is increasingly being questioned in an increasingly digital and polarized society. Our study aims to contribute to the current debate about the raison d’ętre of these organizations. In the public discourse about the benefits for the population, the findings help to objectively classify them - moreover, we want to raise awareness in this regard within the organizations studied," explains Oliver Zügel, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gallup AG, Switzerland.

The focus was on 25 organizations from the postal,public media, telecommunications, rail and energy sectors. They were evaluated in terms of customer benefit and orientation, economic benefit, economic responsibility, environmental and social responsibility, and likeability. The study’s understanding of legitimacy with these five dimensions was developed at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts: "It is scientifically based and is also reflected in legal requirements, in Switzerland for example in the principles of public service from the perspective of the Federal Council," says Dr. Philipp Bachmann, who is responsible for the project on the part of HSLU.

Switzerland has greater trust in public service

Overall, the results show a multi-layered picture and make it clear in a country comparison: In Switzerland, public service organizations have stronger support among the population than in Germany and Austria. They are all in the top ten of the legitimacy ranking. While the Swiss Post ranks first overall, the SRG brings up the rear in Switzerland with tenth place. In Austria, the spectrum of legitimacy values is wider: the Austrian Post and ÉBB perform well in an international comparison, the energy providers are in midfield and the ORF is at the bottom of the ranking. The legitimacy scores in Germany are lower overall than in the other two countries. Of the companies assessed in this study, only Deutsche Post makes it into the top ten. Of the last five places in the overall ranking, four are occupied by German companies.

Postal companies enjoy a very high level of legitimacy

Swiss Post and Austrian Post occupy first and second place - they are sometimes considered to be particularly customer-oriented - while Deutsche Post is ranked eighth. In addition, Swiss Post is rated with the highest overall popularity and the highest economic benefit. In general, the postal companies with their core business are perceived as relevant and indispensable for the population. They also achieve top scores in all countries in terms of their economic responsibility: according to the survey, they are prudent with the privileges they enjoy.

Public service media have a hard time

The lowest legitimacy in all the countries surveyed is attributed to the public service media. Although SRG is among the top ten in the three-country comparison, it is the lowest-rated organization in Switzerland. ARD and ZDF land in 22nd and 23rd place in the overall ranking, a narrow margin ahead of ORF in 24th place. Compared with other sectors, public service media are attributed a lower economic benefit.

Some differences are visible among the providers. According to the survey, SRG achieves a high level of customer benefit with its programming and addresses the needs of the population; this sets it apart from the broadcasters in neighboring countries. In all the countries surveyed, the public media are rated particularly negatively in the way they deal with their economic responsibility. In terms of fulfilling their mission, ARD, ZDF and ORF are criticized in particular for squandering public funds and exploiting their privileges. SRG scores slightly better within the industry, but is also in the bottom third of the overall ranking here. SRG is also rated significantly higher than ARD, ZDF and ORF in terms of environmental and social responsibility.

SBB and ÉBB top - Deutsche Bahn far behind

Deutsche Bahn lands in 21st place, falling far behind the well rated Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and Austrian Federal Railways (ĂBB).
In the eyes of the respondents, the latter make a significant contribution to the national economy.
While the economic responsibility of ÉBB and SBB is average across the industry, Deutsche Bahn scores very low here. The survey concludes that Deutsche Bahn handles public funds carelessly and inefficiently and should be reformed.
ÉBB and SBB are considered to have a high level of environmental and social responsibility. The public’s attachment to and sympathy for the two organizations is also striking. Deutsche Bahn, on the other hand, has a significantly lower sympathy score.

Mixed picture for energy suppliers and telecoms

Switzerland’s third-largest power company, BKW, achieves third place in the cross-country legitimacy ranking. Overall, Swiss power companies also perform well. German and Austrian energy companies mostly land in the midfield, in 11th to 20th place, including the big four in Germany: Vattenfall, EnBW, E.ON and RWE. It is also evident that the Swiss companies Axpo, BKW and Alpiq are associated by the population with very strong environmental and social responsibility. Verbund and EVN in Austria also achieve high scores in this category. One outlier is the energy supplier Uniper of the Federal Republic of Germany across all organizations, its legitimacy is questioned the most. It also achieves the lowest measured likeability score.

In the area of telecoms, the Swiss company Swisscom leads the field in 6th place, while Deutsche Telekom and Telekom Austria follow only in 14th and 16th place. Swisscom is particularly associated with high economic benefits. In general, the three providers are in the solid average range.


Below is an illustration of the overall legitimacy ranking across all countries and industries (click to enlarge).

Explanation of the understanding of legitimacy

The project is based on a scientifically founded understanding of legitimacy, which was developed at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The project team around Dr. Philipp Bachmann has a lot of experience in measuring attitudes about organizations and media. Through the development and application of a scientific scale, five key dimensions were identified. These provide a comprehensive picture of the legitimacy of an organization from different perspectives.

1. "Customer value and orientation" looks at how well an organization meets customer needs.
2. "Economic benefit" assesses the economic importance of an organization for the country as a whole.
3. economic responsibilityrefers to how an organization uses its privileges and handles public funds.
4. environmental and social responsibilitylooks at the sustainability and social justice of an organization.
5. sympathy measures the emotional attachment and sympathy that respondents feel toward an organization.


The survey lasted from May 9 to May 15, 2023, and was conducted by Gallup AG, Switzerland, together with the Austrian Gallup Institute using CAWI interviews (Computer Assisted Web Interviews). In Switzerland, the questionnaire was additionally available in French. The representative sample comprised 3,000 respondents (1,000 respondents per country), who provided a total of 8,901 ratings for various organizations. Only organizations from the respondents’ own country that were known to them were evaluated.

The questions related to a total of 25 organizations from five areas of basic public services: Postal Services,Public Service Media, Telecommunications, Railway Companies and Energy Suppliers. Seven of them were from Switzerland, eight from Austria and ten from Germany.

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts developed the questionnaire and evaluated the responses. Gallup AG, Switzerland, was responsible for conducting the representative survey.