The Electorate’s Dilemma: Which Party To Trust:

People around the world expect and demand a lot more from their leaders than they receive”. That was the conclusion of Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum, following the survey conducted by Gallup International in 2004 which revealed that 63% of the 50,000 people questioned in more than 60 countries considered their top politicians to be dishonest, 60% felt they had too much power and 52% believed they behaved unethically. The result, as the Guardian columnist, Ian Traynor, commented at the time, constituted “ a massive vote of no-confidence in political elites worldwide”.

Fifteen years later, very little seems to have changed. Gallup International’s most recent global opinion poll, titled “Voice Of the People”, has indicated that the populations of many nations are even more unhappy now with their current government than they were then: In France, for example, 68% are dissatisfied, in Spain 64%, Argentina 61% (hence the defeat of President Mauricio Macri to the Peronist Alberto Fernandez on October 27), the USA 59% and Colombia 58%.

In the UK, the figure is 59% – which suggests (say Gallup) that there has been a shift in the British public’s attitude towards politicians, who are now seen more as being just “out for themselves and their party and not particularly concerned about doing the best for their country”. This evident disenchantment with politics and politicians is thus “fuelling a drift of voters away from the main parties”.

President Trump’s campaign mantra about putting “America First” has been replicated in many other countries: 72% of Italians (according to Gallup) hold the view that their national interests should take priority over international cooperation and globalization: In France, the figure is 70%, Spain 62%, Colombia 63%, Ecuador 82%, Argentina 81%, Paraguay 80%, Ethiopia 92% and the UK 71% – which would appear to explain the success of “Vote Leave” in the 2016 European Union Referendum.

In its report “Revealing The Truth About Trust” issued on September 19th, the market research company Ipsos Mori emphasized that “everywhere, the elites and mainstream media are being challenged by an angry populace”. As a member of the audience in the BBC TV’s Question Time programme on 31st October pointed out, the widespread contempt in Britain for Members of Parliament dates back to the expenses scandal of 2010 – which, the New Statesman contributor, William Lewis, observed in the publication on 1st May, involved claims ranging from the comical (duck houses and moat cleaning) to the criminal (false accounting, mortgage fraud) and has led to “a profound, long term disintegration of public trust in our political institutions”.

Statistica.com has similarly noted that questions are again being raised about the alleged corruption, greed and improper financial conduct of some MPs, whose basic annual income is £79, 478: “In a period of recession, when the wages of many employees around the country have stagnated, such behaviour is widely deemed to be a betrayal of their power”.

On the same BBC programme, the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Paul Scully, acknowledged that politics in Britain currently resembles “ a war of attrition” – a view apparently shared by another member of the panel, the journalist Isabel Oakshott, who described it as “a brutal game” and expressed her disquiet about the 500,000 abusive tweets received by MPs between January and September this year, a phenomenon partly due (she declared) to the “incredibly polarizing effect of Brexit”.

Although 70% of UK residents agree with the global perception (cited by the Pew Research Centre) that the political elites are out of touch with average citizens and that elected officials don’t care about what ordinary people think, politicians are perhaps surprisingly not the least-trusted profession in Britain. That accolade belongs to advertising executives, who with 16% are bottom of the Ipsos Mori Veracity Index, below politicians (19%), government ministers (22%), journalists (26%) and estate agents (30%).

At the very top are nurses, who with 96% are regarded as most likely to tell the truth, followed by doctors (92%), teachers (89%), engineers (87%), professors (86%), scientists (85%) and judges (83%). Members of the armed forces (78%) and the police (76%) are 8th & 9th on the list, but priests are down from 69% to 62% and TV news readers from 67% to 62% since 2017. Charity chief executives are trusted by just 48%, trade union officials by 45% and bankers by 41%.

Irrespective as to their position in the “Brexit” debate, UK residents don’t generally appear to differ from their fellow-Europeans on many other issues- for instance whether to trust pharmaceutical conglomerates (40% say no) oil and gas companies (18% say no), food & drink wholesalers ( 31% say no) or the banks (51% say no). The technology sector is the only one of the five classified as reasonably trustworthy.

Europe, emphasises Ipsos Mori, is one of the most privacy sceptical regions in the world, so people there (including in the UK) tend to be uncomfortable about handing over control of their personal data to others. Furthermore, “Over six out of ten Europeans trust news they receive from the radio, TV or the printed press but only 25% are fully convinced about the veracity of what they read on social media”.

Filed under: Media, Politics | Posted on November 5th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon

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