I have been looking at the data in the latest survey of public attitudes towards conduct in public life, carried out for the Committee on Standards in Public Life. One interesting contrast continues to persist in public attitudes towards Members of Parliament. Attitudes towards MPs in general tend to be far more negative than those towards the local MP. This has been tapped over time by various surveys and it is not confined to the UK. The same applies in the USA in respect of the House of Representatives and its individual members.
The survey finds that between 2004 and 2010 the percentage who trusted MPs in general to tell the truth ranged from 26% to 29%. The percentage trusting ‘your local MP’ to tell the truth ranged from 40% to 48%. Possibly counter-intuitively, those showing the greatest levels of trust (in MPs generally and the local MP) were young people: levels of distrust increased with age. In terms of occupational background, skilled/manual workers tended to be most distrustful, and in terms of ethnicity those classed as White British were far more distrustful than people drawn from minority backgrounds. Perhaps not surprisingly, supporters of third parties were more distrustful than those who supported the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democratic parties.
The most worrying finding, though, is that the percentage thinking that MPs are dedicated to doing a good job for the public fell from 46% in 2008 to 26% in 2010. Those thinking MPs are competent in doing their job fell from 36% to 26%. There is clearly a major task involved in restoring public confidence.