Crisis of trust

Public Opinion // Policy 13.11.2012

Michelle Harrison


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Trust crisis could irreversibly change British social landscape for worse

Britain is suffering an unprecedented crisis of trust in its major institutions that threatens to irreversibly undermine national expectations of honesty, reliability and integrity. 

Kantar research shows extremely low levels of trust in a raft of institutions once held in high regard by the majority of the British public, such as Parliament, the BBC, the police and high street banks.

Trust is so low that Britain risks becoming more like Greece or Italy, where the majority of institutions are distrusted by the majority of people. This could lead to critically reduced political engagement, especially in young people, and even foment minor acts of rebellion.

Key Numbers

  • 76% do not trust senior members of the BBC to tell the truth
  • 91% do not trust tabloid journalists to tell the truth
  • 50% do not trust senior police officers to tell the truth

Kantar's research shows that faith in our politicians has plummeted: only three in 10 people trust their local MP to tell the truth (28 per cent), while fewer than one in five trust government ministers (16 per cent) or MPs in general (15 per cent).

Over three quarters of people (76 per cent) do not trust senior members of the BBC to tell the truth and only nine per cent of the public trust tabloid journalists.

Meanwhile, a slew of financial scandals, including claims that the inter-bank lending rate was fixed, have further undermined trust in financial institutions.

Trust in Britain's corporate powerhouses is little better, as over three-quarters (81 per cent) of the population believe that businesses will take advantage of them if they are likely not to be found out, up from 69 per cent in 2010.

Senior police officers, once a bastion of respect, are now held in such low regard that only half the population (50 per cent) trust them to tell the truth.

Of all the institutions included in the report, judges were the most trusted but still just 68 per cent of people believed they did not lie.

The dearth of trust in British institutions, many of which were once international hallmarks of reliability and honesty, could change our social and political landscape for good. The long-term effect of this trust crisis would find us in a similar situation to certain European countries, where various scandals and corruption have led to a deeply embedded cynicism in the country's institutions. If this crisis of trust is not stopped in its tracks, we will enter a situation where young people are increasingly unwilling to contribute to or co-operate with the government, leading to a stagnation and even reversal of our country's development.

Download the data below, contact us for more information, or watch Michelle Harrison talk trust with Jeff Randall Live on Sky News.

Source : Kantar

Editor's Notes

  1. Download the raw data above, or contact: for more information

  2. Population sampled: All adults aged 18+ in Great Britain.

  3. Sampling method: The poll was conducted through the TNS OnlineBus. Invitations to complete the questionnaire are emailed out to a sample of GB online panelists who have agreed to participate in market research.

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