Instability and bad decisions have eroded public confidence
Public confidence in national institutions like the Government and Parliament has markedly declined since 2018, a new report has found. In the period, which includes the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns — as well the political instability which has seen four prime ministers in No.10 Downing Street — trust in the police, media and main political parties has also decreased.
The study, published today by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, polled 24 countries on their attitudes to various national institutions. Just 22% of Britons now say they have confidence in Parliament, down from 32% in 2018 and a historic low since the survey began in 1981. The current figure for the belief in the Government is 24%, down from 29% five years ago.
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Though distrust of institutions is widespread in the UK, it is particularly pronounced among the younger generation, with a clearly observable split by age. The Pre-War generation and Baby Boomers are more likely to have confidence in Parliament (34% and 28% respectively), while Millennials and Generation Z are less inclined towards a belief in authority — the figures for the latter two age groups are 17% and 18% respectively.
In response to nearly every question posed, the UK ranked lower for trust than other high-income countries, while there has been a significant decline in public confidence in lawmakers and law-enforcers. When it comes to trusting the press, only Egypt (8%) ranked lower than the UK (13%), with just 5% of British Gen Z-ers expressing trust in the media. This comes after reports of perceived bias in press coverage, with particular criticism coming in for how the British media covered the coronavirus pandemic and the Government response to it.
Just one in eight people in the UK now have confidence in the country’s political parties, down from 16% in 2018, with even Britons born before the Second World War carrying 16% support. These figures are well below those of other well-off European nations like Norway (36%), Sweden (32%) and Germany (23%). This reflects a growing dissatisfaction with the UK’s political duopoly, and a recognition of the the claims of corruption and cronyism which have dogged both the Conservatives and the Labour Party.
British confidence in the police currently stands at 67%, though this is down from 87% in 1981, and is notably lower than countries like Norway (88%), Germany (86%) and Sweden (86%). This follows the recent, damning Casey Report which judged the Metropolitan Police to be ‘institutionally sexist, racist and homophobic’, as well as previous accusations of systemic corruption. Between age groups, Generation Z is considerably more likely to distrust the police, with only 44% confidence. Amongst those born before the War, support has fallen by 19 percentage points in the last four decades, from 89% to 70%.
The UK is now behind most of its European peers for trust in the structures of Government and the political party system. Scandals in the upper echelons of power and documented abuses in policing have resulted in a loss of faith in the organisations which are meant to inform and protect us. At the same time, one foreign institution has bucked the trend and gained in popularity: the European Union. The organisation now enjoys 39% trust among Britons, significantly higher than the proportions for Government or Parliament. This has increased from 32% in 2018, and follows a continued rise since the UK’s decision in 2016 to leave the EU.