Trust in civil servants rises again — poll

IPSOS Mori research finds four-point rise in those who trust civil servants to tell the truth — and strong trust among "Generation Y"

By Civil Service World

08 Feb 2016

Public trust in civil servants climbed again in the past year, according to the latest research — with officials seen as almost three times more trustworthy than politicians.

Polling firm Ipsos Mori’s annual ‘Veracity index’ asked nearly 1,000 British adults to say whether they would trust people from a range of professions to tell the truth or not.

Civil servants were trusted to tell the truth by 59% of those asked, up four points on last year and ahead of NHS managers, lawyers, charity chief executives, bankers and journalists.

Levels of trust in civil servants has doubled since 1983
Trust in civil servants rising; politicians least trusted group


Trust levels were even higher among members of so-called “Generation Y”, with 65% of those born between 1980 and 2000 saying they trusted civil servants to tell the truth, compared to 54% of those born before 1945. 

Officials have seen a big increase in public trust levels since Ipsos Mori began its study in 1983. Back then, only 25% of those asked said they expected civil servants to tell the truth. Civil servants now rank 10th out of the 24 groups of people which the firm quizzes the public on — although officials are still less trusted than doctors, teachers, hairdressers and “the ordinary man/woman in the street”.

Just under a third (32%) of those asked said they did not trust civil servants, while 8% said they did not know.

Meanwhwhile, ministers and politicians continued to languish at the bottom of the table with just 22% of those asked saying they trusted ministers to tell the truth, while “politicians generally” fared even worse, on 21%.

However, both groups have enjoyed a rise in trust since last year, with a three-point rise in trust for ministers and a five-point rise for politicians more generally.

Bobby Duffy, director of Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute said public trust had “been an issue for politicians for at least the past 33 years”.

He added: “Other professions though have seen a long-term decline in trust, most notably the clergy, who were the most trusted profession when we started the series in 1983 and have fallen behind seven other groups, including scientists and, for the first time in this latest survey, the ordinary man or woman in the street.

"But it’s not all bad news – some groups have increased their level of trust, including some who are significantly up over recent years, like civil servants. This seems to be driven by younger groups being much more trusting, maybe reflecting the different context they’ve grown up in – a post-'Yes, Minister' era."

Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood seized on the findings of the Veracity index to pay tribute to civil servants, “especially those of you on the front line, at the borders, in the call centres and on major infrastructure projects”.

He added: “These successes are a result of your hard work – across the country and in agencies and departments. “The increase in public trust is a reflection of the way you have thrown yourself into the challenges we have faced, producing results that some people said weren’t even possible.“


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