The public's trust in politicians has fallen by nine percentage points in just 18 months, as two thirds of British voters now believe that they are merely out for themselves, according to new research commissioned by IPPR.
- Public trust in politicians falls by nine percentage points in 18 months
- Two-thirds of the public say politicians are merely out for themselves
- Just 4 per cent of British people believe parliamentarians are doing their best for the country
- Conservative and Labour voters united in distrust
A YouGov survey of over 1,700 adults in Britain shows that 66 per cent of the public believe that politicians are only out for themselves. Last November 63 per cent held this view, while in May 2021 it was 57 per cent.
The drop of nine percentage points in the last 18 months is a quick acceleration of the growing distrust in politicians. For comparison, it took seven years for the previous drop of nine percentage points, and 42 years before that.
Only 4 per cent of the public believe politicians are doing their best for the country, while 19 per cent think that politicians prioritise their party.
Voters across the political spectrum are united in their distrust; 67 per cent of remain voters, 68 per cent of leave voters, 64 per cent of Conservative voters and 69 per cent of Labour voters believe that politicians are merely out for themselves.
A decrease in trust in politicians is profoundly disturbing as it is linked to long term damaging consequences for democracy, such as:
- Lower voter turnout especially among under-represented groups
- Political polarisation and the rise of populist challenger parties
- Less effective, and less progressive, government because policy makers find it harder to find a consensus on policy and struggle with legitimacy in using the powers of the state
Further recent polling by IPPR shows that citizens increasingly feel they lack representation and voice in how society is governed. Four in five people in Britain say politicians poorly understand their lives, and only six per cent of people in Great Britain said voters have the greatest sway over public policy compared to one in two who said political donors, businesses and lobbying groups do.
The Institute is calling for reforms to rebuild trust in politics, including:
- Passing more power to places and people - this means making politics more inclusive and less centralised through new powers for elected mayors and the use of participatory methods, such as citizens assemblies
- Ensuring politicians are more representative - we can rebuild trust in parliamentarians by having a more reflective demographic in Westminster, especially more diversity in class
- Reforming our economic model - Trust grows when our economy is growing and living standards are rising - and when the state delivers access to high quality services. In the current context, this means protecting people from the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and dealing with creaking public services.
Harry Quilter-Pinner, director of research and engagement at IPPR, said:
After a year of chaos which saw sleaze and scandals take down the Johnson government, and the ill-judged mini budget quickly undoing the Truss premiership, trust in politicians is in free fall. This has profoundly negative consequences for our politics.
There is no magic bullet to restore trust in politics. It is easy to lose it, and hard to regain it. But what we do know is that simply changing the prime minister or party in power will not solve the problem. We need deep reform of our economy and politics.
This means devolving more power to places and citizens, having more representative politicians and ensuring all citizens have a decent income and access to high quality public services.
Harry Quilter-Pinner the report's author, is available for interview
Liam Evans, Senior Digital and Media Officer: 07419 365334 firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
The IPPR blog, Trust in freefall by Harry Quilter-Pinner, will be available for reading at: https://www.ippr.org/blog/trust-in-freefall
Polling was conducted online by YouGov between 26th - 27th October 2022. Total sample size was 1,727 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+ in England, Scotland and Wales)
Previous IPPR reports on this subject include:
- Trust issues: dealing with distrust in politics
Available at: www.ippr.org/research/publications/trust-issues
- Road to renewal: elections, parties and the case for democratic reform
Available at: www.ippr.org/publications/road-to-renewal
IPPR is the UK's pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain's only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org