The Ipsos MORI Veracity Index is the longest-running poll on trust in professions in Britain, having been asked consistently since 1983. The 24th edition records a significant decrease in public trust in the police, for the second year in a row. It also reveals that librarians are one of Britain’s most trusted professions, ranking alongside doctors and nurses.
Key headlines include:
- Trust in the police has fallen by eight percentage points. Sixty-three per cent say they trust the police to tell the truth, down from 71% in 2020 and 76% in 2019. Having said that, this score is little different to the average level of trust recorded in the police since 1983. There is no difference between men and women on trust in the police, with 64% of the former and 63% of the latter saying they trust them to tell the truth.
- Librarians are among the most trusted professionals in Britain. Ninety-three per cent of Britons say they trust librarians to tell the truth, just one percentage point behind nurses, who have been the highest scoring profession each year since 2016, when they were first included in the survey series.
- This year’s top five most trusted professions are nurses, librarians, doctors, teachers and museum curators. Librarians are a new entrant to the survey, while curators have seen a small four percentage-point increase in the level of trust accorded them by the British public.
- Trust in journalists has recovered from last year back to their previous highest scores, although they remain in Britain’s five least-trusted professions with just 28% saying they trust them to tell the truth and almost two thirds (63%) say they do not. This is a five percentage-point increase from 2020 and is also nine points above the level of trust recorded in journalists in 1983. TV news readers have seen a smaller increase in trust (of just two percentage points) to 52%, but the proportion saying they do not trust them has fallen from 42% to 38%.
- Trust in professional footballers has risen by five points, with 35% now saying they trust this group to tell the truth and just under half (48%) not trusting them. There has also been a five-point increase in trust in estate agents.
- The survey registers small increases in trust for politicians. Nineteen per cent of the public say they trust each of Government Ministers and politicians more generally, which is a small four-point increase since 2020 for the latter. These scores are in line with the longer-term average for politicians, after a drop over the past two waves of the survey.
- The five least trusted professions are advertising executives, politicians, government ministers, journalists and business leaders. This is broadly in line with patterns from previous years, although there have been marginal improvements for advertising executives, journalists and politicians.
As was the case in 2020, this year’s poll was carried out by telephone rather than face-to-face due to pandemic restrictions, which means that mode effects should be considered when comparing with waves of the survey prior to 2020, especially when changes are near the margin of error.
Trust in professions varies little by gender. The largest gap in trust between men and women exists for politicians, who are trusted to tell the truth by 24% of men and just 15% of women. Women are however slightly more likely than men to say they trust trade union officials (48% versus 40%) and lawyers (63% vs 56%).
There are larger gaps by education, especially between the degree-educated and those with no formal qualifications. The biggest gap exists in trust in civil servants, who are trusted by almost three quarters of degree-holders (72%), thirty percentage points ahead of trust levels among those without qualifications (42%). The next-biggest gaps exist for charity chief executives (59% versus 35%), pollsters (59% versus 38%), engineers (93% and 73%) and trade union officials (54% vs 34%). Bankers are the only profession where this relationship is reversed: 50% of those without qualifications trust bankers, compared with 35% of degree-holders.
This year also explores differences between supporters of the Conservative and Labour parties. The largest gap exists on trade union officials, who are trusted by 59% of Labour supporters and 30% of Conservatives. But the next-biggest gaps are on politicians: Over a third of Conservatives trust Government Ministers to tell the truth (36%) and a slightly smaller proportion say the same for politicians more generally (32%). The scores among Labour party supporters stand at just 14% and 13% respectively. There is also a similar-sized gap on business leaders, who are trusted by 44% of Conservatives and 23% of Labour supporters.
Mike Clemence, researcher at Ipsos MORI, said: “This year’s index has a new entrant very near the top of the ranking: more than nine in ten Britons say they trust librarians to tell the truth. It also confirms some movements we started to see last year, most notably the drop in trust in the police, which can be seen among both men and women.
Trust in journalists now equals the highest level we have recorded in the index, although still they are trusted by fewer than three in ten of the British public. Other professions who have seen an increase in public esteem include professional footballers and estate agents.
We have also seen a small increase in trust in politicians – although both are trusted by just one in five Britons. This leaves advertising executives at the foot of the table for 2021, although even with them distrust is not as bad as it was last year.