IfG polling finds slight boost in trust in politicians

19 Sep 16

Polling published today by the Institute for Government has found the public is more likely to believe politicians will prioritise running government effectively than they were in 2014, but the proportion remains below 30%

This is despite the often fractious nature of the debate in the run up to the referendum on whether to leave the European Union, with leading Brexit campaigner Michael Gove claiming that the “people in this country have had enough of experts”.

The poll of 2,035 adults by Populus for the think-tank appears to show the contrary, with more people now believing that decision-making should take place with the input of experts.

However, the polling suggests a general frustration toward ‘big announcements’, in favour of information about how government will get things done. This is true for people who voted for the Remain and Leave camps, challenging the view that “the rancour between those who voted to remain in the EU and those who voted for Brexit could leave the country permanently divided.” Both groups are sceptical, however, about whether the government will deliver on Brexit promises and domestic policies, the polling suggests.  

The public is more likely to think that government is focusing on the right things than it was in 2014. Today, 8% more people believe politicians are prioritising the implementation of policies that are best for Britain and 7% more that they are prioritising taking long-term decisions, although both are still under 30%. In addition, 5% more that they are prioritising running government professionally, but the total remains under 20%.

Also, it seems the public perceives that a lull has taken place from the normal ‘back and forth’ of Westminster politics, with 4% believing politicians are less likely to focus on scoring political points, or focus on re-election (8%).  

However, there was a more worrying belief that representing their constituency was low on the agenda for MPs. The IfG noted the MP-constituent relationship was a crucial means of narrowing the perceived gap between so-called political elites and ‘ordinary people’. In fact, only 11% of people think politicians prioritise representing their local area – compared to the 47% of people who think they prioritise scoring points against each other.

Emma Norris, IfG programme director, said that although trust in government was growing, this could quickly be undermined by the doubt that politicians will actually follow through with their promises. 

“Our polling shows people care more about delivery than big announcements,” she added. Instead, people want to know about “what key policies on the economy, immigration, public services and social mobility actually mean in practice and most importantly – how they will be delivered”. Given this, the government’s mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ without further policy detail might not cut it for much longer, she added.

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