On the 19th and 20th May we ran a survey on coronavirus attitudes and beliefs, which included questions on trust. Given the recent furor around Dominic Cummings seemingly breaking the lockdown rules we reran the survey on the 27th May to gauge any changes in trust and attitudes. A total of 1001 people from across the UK took part in the initial survey and 200 people in the follow up survey. The survey was run jointly by IAESV and CURA (the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity) with analysis by myself and Jonathan Rose.
One question asked respondents: ‘generally speaking, how much trust do you have in the following people’. The graph below summarizes the results on a scale from 1 – no trust – to 7 – a great deal of trust. We find a statistically significant drop in trust for Conservative politicians (p < 0.001, Mann-Whitney test). There is also a statistically significant fall in trust for MPs (p = 0.026, Mann Whitney test). However, there is a marginal increase in trust for labour politicians (p = 0.063, Mann-Whitney test). There is also a marginal increase in trust for scientific experts (p = 0.064, Mann-Whitney test)
A subsequent questions asked ‘To what extent do you trust the following people/organisations to give you reliable information during the Coronavirus crisis’. The graph below summarizes the results. We again find a statistically significant drop in trust for Conservative politicians (p < 0.001, Mann-Whitney test). There is also a statistically significant fall in trust for MPs (p = 0.034, Mann Whitney test). Here we see a statistically more robust increase in trust for labour politicians (p = 0.018, Mann-Whitney test). There is no change in trust for scientific experts (p = 0.233, Mann-Whitney test) but a marginally significant increase in trust in the NHS (p = 0.056). There is no significant change in trust in other people/organisations.
Our results shows that politicians were not trusted before the Cummings furor and appear even less trusted now. Trust in the government, in particular, has likely taken a hit. This means it is vital that information about coronavirus is communicated via scientific experts and the NHS. Recent events have led some in the scientific community to suggest experts should distance themselves from the government, for instance by holding independent press briefings. Understandable though this sentiment may be, if it ultimately means less exposure for scientific experts (which it may well do) then it could be a step backwards in terms of getting the appropriate message communicated to the general public.