A PRWeek/OnePoll survey this week found that 59 per cent regarded lobbying as an issue of growing concern, compared with 50 per cent last year.
There was also widespread support for tighter regulation of the industry. The data revealed that 63 per cent of people wanted a statutory register of lobbyists put in place, although only 36 per cent were aware of the Government's efforts to implement such an initiative.
However, just eight per cent of respondents picked out public affairs agencies as those organisations whose lobbying activities were of most concern, behind private business (25 per cent), former politicians (14 per cent) and trade unions (12 per cent).
The CIPR's director of policy and comms, Phil Morgan, agreed that lobbyists should be accountable for their professional conduct, but argued that the survey suggested that the industry's role was still widely misunderstood.
'The image of lobbying could be improved by shedding more light on the activity to show how it helps create better policy and law, and by increasing the number of highly skilled practitioners who will guide clients and employers to appropriate lobbying activity through objective counsel,' he said.
In total, 58 per cent of respondents said they either did not understand lobbying or understood the industry a little, while 42 per cent said they did not know whether lobbying did more harm than good for British democracy.
The PRCA's director general, Francis Ingham, said such responses created 'an opportunity to change public opinion'.
Ingham said that the public's recognition that agencies were not the prime focus of concern was 'striking', adding: 'If the Government introduces a register that covers only PA agencies, it will be ignoring not only the industry itself but also voters.'