NEWS10 September 2013

There’s little trust in government – but public want to be heard, says NatCen

Government UK

UK — People are less likely to trust politicians but they have more faith in their own ability to influence the political process, according to the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) report produced by NatCen Social Research.

This most recent BSA survey, conducted last year, saw a decline in the number of people thinking they had ‘no say’ in what government does – down from 71% in 1986 to 59% in 2012. At the same time, the number of people reporting a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of interest in politics increased from 29% in 1987 to 36% in 2012.

NatCen CEO Penny Young said that while the public has become more interested in politics and more determined to have their say, it “has lost faith in the institutions that are essential in a functioning democracy”.

The government, the press, the police and banks are all less trusted now than they were in the 1980s. Asked whether they trust the government, 32% said ‘almost never’, up from 11% in 1986. Meanwhile, only 19% of the public now view banks as well run, compared to 90% during the 1980s. Only 27% believe the press is well run, compared to 53% in 1983, and confidence in the running of the police has fallen from 77% to 65% over the same period.

“If politicians want to try to build public trust they should consider ways of giving the public a greater stake in the political process,” says Young. “British Social Attitudes tells us moves to direct democracy, like referenda or the power of recall, would be almost universally popular.”

The full 2012 BSA report is available online here. Young has also written a piece exclusively for Research, reflecting on 30 years of the BSA survey. Her article, ‘From punch card to PC: 30 years of British Social Attitudes’, is available here.