Deteriorating trust in government

Posted on 24/01/2017 by Ed Hammond.

Edelman, a global communication firm which measures trust levels across the world, stated that in 2017 trust is in crisis. Data from 28 countries suggests that people trust less in all four key institutions: government, media, business, and non-government sector. 

While this is a global phenomenon, the distrust trends among the UK institutions are significantly more pronounced. On average, in the last year all institutions lost about 27% of trust, leaving us with, perhaps, the lowest trust levels the UK has witnessed. Inside the government, no political party managed to gain any trust in 2017 compared to the previous year. 


The rest of the report looks at the trust levels for key politicians, heads of parties, CEOs, experts, and academics. It explores the deteriorating trust among low-income households, and the pronounced polarisation that UK population has on domestic and foreign policy issues. 

These trends are worrying for many reasons, for once, no system can function effectively in an atmosphere of distrust. Worse, loosing faith in government and other key institutions leads to loosing faith in the system as a whole. 

It is clear that all politicians and public servants across the tiers of government have a role to play in trying to build up trust in government again to prevent further fragmentation. At CfGS we continue to argue that one of the best ways to build trust is by embracing the principles of openness, transparency and inviting public scrutiny. With the ongoing pressures on council finances and services there is a pressing need to engage in open and mature dialogue with people about the difficult decisions that have to made, and through that engagement and challenge there is an opportunity to build trust.  The opposite, some may say natural reaction, to disengage from those that don’t trust you, will only exacerbate the worrying trend.

The full report can be downloaded here.



About the Author: Ed Hammond

Ed leads CfGS's work on devolution, transformation and on support to councils and other public bodies on governance and accountability.