British people feel they are trapped in an unfair class system, they feel politically disempowered, and do not trust politicians, the media, or business leaders. Furthermore, there’s a prevailing feeling amongst the public that party leaders are out of touch with them.
This downbeat picture of low morale in austerity Britain emerges from opinion polling by Kantar Public among 1196 adults.
The survey found that most people (63%) agree that social class “should no longer be relevant”, though 60% believe that people should have the opportunity to improve their social class. But 60% believe that class has an impact on their life chances, while only 27% think that everyone in the country has equal opportunities.
Women feel especially strongly that class should not be relevant – 69% agree against 57% of men – and are more likely to agree that upward social mobility is desirable (63% against 58% for men).
Asked how much they can make a difference in national politics, 76% of people say “to no extent at all” with 61% saying they can make no difference in local politics. People in North West England are most inclined to say they can make no difference nationally (87%) and locally (71%). People in Greater London feel least disempowered nationally (60%) and locally (51%).
The survey also found that British people do not trust a whole range of public figures, apart from judges – nearly two thirds of adults say they trust judges to tell them the truth. By contrast, only 17% trust government ministers and 14% trust MPs in general to tell the truth, though trust in their local MP is a little higher at 31%. Local councillors are seen as truthful by only 27%.
Recent scandals in the media have pushed trust in journalists to very low levels, with only 10% trusting “popular newspaper” journalists to tell the truth, only 34% trusting “quality newspaper” journalists and 40% trusting TV journalists.
There are also low levels of trust in people who run large companies (18%), senior civil servants (23%), and senior BBC figures (28%).
Men are generally more trusting than women. Women are slightly more trusting than men of senior police officers and both sexes trust their local MP equally. For all the other people mentioned in the survey, men have a higher level of trust than women.
People in London are more likely to trust politicians, journalists, senior BBC figures, top civil servants and business leaders than those in the rest of the country. Liberal Democrat voters generally have higher levels of trust than average, while UKIP voters are less trusting.
Asked whether the main party leaders are “in touch with the concerns of the British public”, 70% say David Cameron and Nick Clegg are not in touch and 65% say the same about Ed Miliband (however, this lower score is predominantly because a higher proportion of people do not know whether or not Ed Miliband is in touch). Looking at the results by political party support, 38% of Conservative voters say David Cameron is out of touch, 40% of Labour voters say Ed Miliband is out of touch and 33% of Liberal Democrat voters say Nick Clegg is out of touch.
People in Scotland are most inclined to say that the party leaders are out of touch, while people in Greater London are most likely to say that they are in touch.
Nick Howat, Head of TNS BMRB’s Social and Political Attitudes Centre said: “This research shows that the general public currently feel disenfranchised with politics in Great Britain. Most people do not believe that they can make a difference to politics at a national or local level, most people also believe that the party leaders are out of touch with peoples’ concerns and that government ministers cannot be trusted to tell the truth. This suggests that if politicians want to gain the trust of the general public they need to listen to their concerns and make it easier for normal people to engage in the political process.”
Notes to editors
Detailed tables for this survey can be found attached. Please treat with caution any figures in the tables where the sample size – the unweighted base – is less than 50.
TNS Omnibus interviewed 1,196 GB adults between 18th and 22nd April.
About Kantar Public
Kantar Public is a leading provider of specialist social research, offering insight into public policy to government and not-for-profit clients. Delivering a range of approaches including bespoke proprietary research and public affairs, random probability survey capabilities, as well as social marketing and polling, Kantar Public is the largest commercial provider of social research and insight to Whitehall. Kantar Public is part of the TNS group.
Kantar Public – Understanding society, public services and change. For more information please visit us on our website at www.tns-bmrb.co.uk.
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Laura Chatterton, TNS Head of Communications