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Trust in government falling before Cummings stories broke: Reuters Institute

Posted on: June 2, 2020 by Ian Murray

Trust in the UK government and the media as a source of information about coronavirus has declined in the last month, the latest survey from the Reuters Institute reports.

Trust in the government has fallen substantially during the period, a trend that began before the recent controversy surrounding Number 10 advisor Dominic Cummings.

The survey reports that by late May, less than half the British public consider the UK government a relatively trustworthy source of news and information about coronavirus. The same holds for news organisations. Just a quarter consider individual politicians relatively trustworthy.

“The drops for all three sources are large and significant, and much more dramatic than the significantly smaller changes around other institutions and around trust in ordinary people.” Says the report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The main findings are:

  • Trust in the UK government as a source of information about coronavirus has declined substantially since April. 48% rated the government relatively trustworthy in late May, down from 67% six weeks earlier. Trust in news organisations is also down, from 57% to 46%. These drops are large and significant (as is the drop for politicians), and much more dramatic than the significantly smaller changes around other institutions.
  • The decline in trust in the UK government has happened across the political spectrum, including among those on the right (down 10 percentage points), as well as among people in the centre (down 19 percentage points) and on the left (down 24 percentage points). Trust in news is much less politically polarised.
  • There is a significant increase in the percentage of people who say they are concerned about false or misleading information about coronavirus from the UK government (up 11 percentage points to 38%) and from politicians (up 9 percentage points to 40%). There has been no significant parallel change in the number of people who say they are concerned about false or misleading information about coronavirus from news organisations or other institutions.
  • The percentage of people who say that the UK government is doing a good job responding to the coronavirus crisis is down 21 percentage points since April. The biggest drops are among people in the political centre (down 25 percentage points) and on the political right (down 21 percentage points). The drop for news organisations is eight percentage points.
  • 27% think that the coronavirus situation in the UK is heading in the right direction (down from 35% in April), and 25% think the UK is on the wrong track (up from 10% in April). Just under half (42%) think the picture is mixed.

Factsheet published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism as part of the UK COVID-19 News and Information project funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice.

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