NEWS14 May 2024

Trust in official stats remains high, report finds

News Public Sector Trends UK

UK – There are high levels of trust in official statistics among the public, with 87% trusting the Office for National Statistics (ONS), according to the latest Public Confidence in Official Statistics report.


The 2023 report found that 74% of respondents had heard of the ONS, and that the 87% of respondents who said they trust the ONS was the same proportion as in 2021.

Those who have used official statistics were more likely to trust ONS ( 99%) than those who have not used them, although 82% of non-users also said they trusted ONS.

Most respondents agreed that official statistics are accurate ( 83%) and free from political interference ( 72%).

The Public Confidence in Official Statistics report is carried out every two years by National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and commissioned by the UK Statistics Authority. Fieldwork took place between 4th October and 17th December 2023, with a representative sample of 2,634 adults.

The main reason people gave for trusting ONS was that they did not have a vested interest in or manipulate the results, although the main reasons people gave for not trusting ONS were related to how statistics are used by the media and politicians.

The report found that 76% of respondents agreed the census was free from political influence, falling to 53% for crime statistics ( 53%) and 56% for employment statistics.

Overall agreement on whether statistics help people make decisions about their life dropped from 53% in the 2021 survey to 40% in 2023.

In addition, 95% of respondents agreed there should be an independent body to speak out against the misuse of statistics, with 94% saying such a body should make sure that statistics are produced free from political interference.

ONS had a high level of trust among 87% of respondents, similar to levels of trust in the courts ( 82%) or the Bank of England ( 79%).

Also, 92% of respondents who reported that they had taken part in an ONS survey agreed that personal information provided to ONS would be kept confidential.

Use of official statistics rose for all data series except for the census, which has seen a five-percentage point decline since 2021.

Sir Robert Chote, chair at the UK Statistics Authority, said: “While this is just one source of information about how people view the statistical system, it’s reassuring that trust has remained consistently high over time among those who respond, although we shouldn’t be surprised if we see some change next year given the challenges the system has had to confront in more recent months.

“As recommended by the recent independent review of the authority, later this year we (together with the Royal Statistical Society) will convene a statistical assembly of producers, users and stakeholders, to explore how we can best serve the public good over the next three years.”

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, national statistician, said: “Now more than ever it is vitally important that citizens know where to find reliable, impartial statistics and trust the ONS to handle their data safely and responsibly.

“We will continue to work hard to maintain and build upon that trust as we continue to modernise and improve our statistics in the months and years ahead.”

Ed Humpherson, director general for regulation at Office for Statistics Regulation, added: “The survey provides reassuring evidence that people do value statistics. And just as importantly, it shows that people value our regulatory role in standing up against the misuse of statistics.”