Issues & Ideas | 5th January 2015

We now trust trade unionists and civil servants twice as much as politicians

Only one in five people trust journalists, and only half of us trust pollsters, […]

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Only one in five people trust journalists, and only half of us trust pollsters, so fewer than one in five people presumably trust this, but if you do: we distrust politicians.

The findings come from Ipsos MORI, a pollster, who have been running this “Trust in Professions” survey since 1983 (but only regularly since 1997).

The British feel pretty much as they did under Thatcher, with three exceptions.

First, civil servants have, perhaps oddly, become far more trusted. In 1983 only one in four Britons trusted them. A decade later more than a third did. Now over half of us do. This, despite decades in which they have mismanaged billion-pound contracts under new schemes like the Private Finance Initiative, or over-ambitious IT projects – most infamously for the NHS in the 2000s and more recently for Universal Credit.

Second, trade union officials quickly recovered from their politician-esque ratings in the 1980s (18 per cent trusted them to tell the truth in 1983, just before the miners’ strike of 1984-85), and are now trusted by twice as many people as then.

The third change is less directly political but a perennial issue: do we place more trust in science or faith? Trust in the clergy has fallen as trust in scientists has risen.