What happened to trust in 2020?

by Ben Page
Politics

Despite the media and political classes’ obsession with trust, which we reported on last year in our report Trust: the Truth, 2020 has shown little change. There was a surge in trust in governments all over the world early in the year, as the pandemic left millions looking for leadership, but the overall pattern of trust in professions remains very similar to previous years. Our annual Veracity Index, which looks at the trustworthiness of different professions showed politicians ended 2020 about as mistrusted as they usually are.

The highs and lows of trust in politicians

% trust to tell the truth

Source
Ipsos MORI

Base
c.1,000 British adults interviewed per year. 2020 and 2013 conducted by telephone; all other years face-to-face

Overall people continue to trust scientists and professors – although trust in scientists advising the Government fell in 2020 as the response to COVID-19 became politicised. In general, people always trust scientists linked to Government less than those working for charities.

Perhaps hearteningly in 2020, it turns out that 75% of us trust delivery drivers – given our reliance on them this year, along with care home workers and the traditional leaders in trust – nurses and doctors and engineers.

The profession that has seen the biggest long-term decline in trust is the clergy, which is now 29 percentage points lower than in 1983 – that should give the bishops some food for thought.

Delivery driver offloading

Key movers in public trust over time

% trust to tell the truth

Source
Ipsos MORI

Base
c.1,000 British adults interviewed per year. 2020 and 2013 conducted by telephone; all other years face-to-face

Education proves to be one of the strongest indicators of higher trust in most professions

Finally, as our work consistently shows, education proves to be one of the strongest indicators of higher trust in most professions – for instance, those with degrees are more likely to say they trust economists to tell the truth by a 30 percentage point margin (67% versus 37% among those with no formal qualifications) and there are similar-sized gaps for scientists (90% versus 67%), judges (92% versus 71%) and museum curators (90% versus 70%).

Overall the data should remind us that while there is an ongoing challenge with trust, it is not in any kind of acute crisis – trust in government has not collapsed: despite Donald Trump’s best efforts it didn’t change in America between 2011 and 2019. Globally, leaders like Angela Merkell, Scott Morrison in Australia and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand have all shown that you can maintain or grow trust with clear, consistent communications and policy, and empathy towards their people. If you can get this right, you will be rewarded – Scott Morrison went from a tone deaf handling of bush fires in 2019, to 66% approval in November 2020. It’s a reminder to us all that there is always something we can do!

Ben Page

Ben Page

Chief Executive