Has the long-term decline in trust finally bottomed out?

It has been a regular finding of both MORI and YouGov research that the public’s trust in members of different professions has been steadily declining for many years. However, the latest survey from YouGov suggests this decline has stopped, with several professions – including politicians – seeing a recent recovery in their standings.

In 2003 on average 49% of people said they trusted different professions on average to tell the truth a great deal or a fair amount. This fell to 42% in 2006 and 37% in 2007 but was 39% this August. The two point rise is not statistically significant but does end the run of statistically significant declines.

Between 2007 and 2010 trust in NHS hospital managers increased by 12 percentage points, though still only reaching 29%, as did trust in leading Conservative politicians (also reaching 29%) with people who run large companies getting an 11 point gain to take them to 28%. Leading Labour politicians increased by 9 to 23% and leading Liberal Democrats by 8 to 27% with “my local MP” increasing by 7 to 36%. The biggest decline was among judges – down by 7 points to 63%.

Overall family doctors are most trusted (85%, down 4), followed by school teachers (76%, down 1), people who run national charities (67%, up 3) and local police beat officers (66%, no change).

Least trusted are journalists on red-top tabloids (10%, up 3), estate agents (14%, up 4) and senior officials in the EU (16%, up 2).

Though other newspaper journalists do better, none are trusted by more than 50%, reinforcing my often expressed view that coping with the large volume of free news available is not simply a matter of technical issues or business models for newspapers – they also need to win people’s trust.

If people don’t trust you, you are not exactly making it easy to persuade people to give you money, especially the generations of media consumers now growing up who are not starting with a newspaper reading habit.

The margin of error on the poll figures is +/-3%, but the changes between the different polls are only statistically significant if greater than c.5%. The wording of question was “How much do you trust the following to tell the truth?”. 2008 has been excluded as some professions were omitted in that year.

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