People trust doctors and teachers more than civil servants and the government, survey reveals

The public trusts statements made to the media by doctors, teachers and the police more than any other public sector institution, according to an exclusive survey for PRWeek.

Doctors, teachers and the police are the most trusted in public sector comms (©PA Images Kieran Maisonnet)
Doctors, teachers and the police are the most trusted in public sector comms (©PA Images Kieran Maisonnet)

Atomik Research carried out a poll of more than 2,000 adults on behalf of PRWeek at the weekend.

Survey respondents were weighted to reflect gender, age, political affiliation and geographical location across the whole of the UK.

Those surveyed were asked which, from a list or public sector professions, they trusted most if they saw them quoted in the mainstream media.

And while doctors engendered trust levels of 61 per cent – with teachers on 32 per cent and the police on 29 per cent - pollsters did not fare so well, with the lowest trust rating of 2.25 per cent, followed by politicians on 5.2 per cent and local councillors on 5.25 per cent.

Statements by the Government, as a whole, to the media had a trust rating of 6.67 per cent, while statements from the civil service enjoyed the trust of 9.36 per cent of survey respondents.

Trust is highest for statements made by:

Doctors 61 per cent
Teachers 32 per cent
Police 29 per cent
Judges 25 per cent

Trust is lowest for statements made by:

Pollsters 2.25 per cent
Politicians 5.2 per cent
Local councillors 5.25 per cent
Government 6.67 per cent
Civil servants 9.36 per cent

Asked to rate their awareness of different government departments, the Ministry of Defence had the highest visibility for the public, at 74 per cent, followed by the Department for Education on 73 per cent and the Department for Transport on 72 per cent.

Respondents were least aware of the Wales Office, the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Asked to rate the trustworthiness of the individual departments' statements to the media, 43 per cent of respondents said they trusted the Ministry of Defence "a great deal" or "quite a lot", with the Treasury on 42 per cent and the Department of Health on 41 per cent.

By contrast, 67 per cent of respondents said they had "not much" or "no trust whatsoever" in statements made to the media by the Department for Exiting the European Union, with 66 per cent saying the same of the Wales Office and the Department for International Development.

The advent of multiple social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, has enabled government departments to speak directly to the public, without the filter of the media.

However, just 26 per cent of respondents said they trusted the statements of government departments on social channels, while 74 per cent said they did not.

Respondents said they preferred government comms to come via their televisions, with 57 per cent giving this answer, while 15 per cent trusted statements made by direct mail and 12 per cent via newspapers.

Looking at the results by age group, statement by doctors to the media still enjoyed the highest trust rating, starting at 45 per cent for 18-24-year-olds and rising steadily through age groups to 71 per cent of those aged 55 and above.

At the other end of the scale, statements made by the Government enjoyed their highest trust rating among 18-24 year-olds, at nearly 14 per cent, but this dropped by half to just over 6 per cent in other age groups and to 4 per cent among over 55s.

When broken down by gender, 45 per cent of men trusted statements made by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, while only 30 per cent of women said the same.

By contrast, nearly 78 per cent of women said they trusted statements made by the Ministry of Defence, compared with 70 per cent of men who said the same.

Atem Mbeboh, deputy managing director of Atomik Research, told PRWeek: "There is not a single definition of trust, in the context of this survey – trust is about telling the truth and confidence we have, but also about the channels used to communicate and engage with the voters.

"Trust levels varies significantly dependent on the institution and the channel used. What the survey reveals is that these public institutions need to think carefully about how they get buy-in from the population. The channels will determine how we engage."


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