UK public trust in political parties collapses to 12%

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UK public faith in political parties fell sharply in 2023, cementing their reputation as the country’s least-trusted institution, according to official data that highlights the challenges for politicians ahead of the general election expected this year.

Only 12 per cent of the British public said they trusted political parties, down from 20 per cent in the same survey run in 2022, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. Approximately 68 per cent said they distrusted political parties.

Political parties were the least trusted of any UK public institution, as they were in 2022. In contrast, some 62 per cent of people surveyed by the ONS in 2023 said they had faith in the judicial system, 56 per cent trusted the police and 45 per cent trusted the civil service.

Bar chart of Levels of trust in public institutions, UK, 2023, % of adults showing Few British people have faith in political parties

The drop in trust “is very serious because this is what liberal democracy is about”, said Tony Travers, professor in the department of government at the London School of Economics.

He attributed the fall in trust to the political chaos surrounding the premierships of former Conservative leaders Boris Johnson and Liz Truss along with factional infighting within the governing Tory party.

Travers also highlighted the cost of living crisis and long NHS waiting lists. There is a “sense that government and I think politics, endlessly over promises and under delivers”, he said.

The data comes as the controversial left-winger George Galloway won a by-election in Rochdale after a chaotic campaign where Labour, which had held the seat, withdrew support from its candidate after he made incendiary comments about Israel.

The ONS figures chime with data reported at the end of last year by the market research company Ipsos, which found trust in politicians had reached its lowest score in 40 years in 2023.

Just 9 per cent of the British public said they trusted politicians to tell the truth, down from 12 per cent in 2022, the lowest score since records began in 1983, making it the least-trusted profession in Britain, according to Ipsos.

The ONS data also showed that the proportion of adults trusting the UK government was down from 35 per cent to 27 per cent between 2022 and 2023. Trust in parliament was down 10 percentage points to 24 per cent over the same period.

“These are institutions that are the very bedrock of democracy and the fall in trust is something that all political parties need to think about,” said Travers.


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