Credit: Lisa Paul

University reports reveal variance in political trust based on gender, income, and age

By Lauren Brooks

The University of Glasgow has collaborated with the Institute for Public Policy Research to produce major new reports.

A series of new reports from the University of Glasgow have highlighted gender, income, and age gaps show levels of trust in politics.

Major new reports from the John Smith Centre at the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) showed women and people with lower incomes tend to have lower levels of political trust, while there appeared to be lower levels of political engagement among younger generations, despite higher levels of political trust. The Trilogy on Trust reports are based on a field study on UK opinion, designed by experts from the University of Glasgow.

Rachel Statham, a senior research fellow at the IPPR said: “At a time when young people, women and people on lower incomes are amongst the hardest hit by the economic fall-out from Covid-19, new evidence of low levels of political trust among these groups ought to be cause for concern.”

The Income Gap shows that the government rules are less likely to be followed by people in these groups, which is crucial amidst the economic downturn and possible second Covid wave. People with personal incomes of more than £60,000 a year are around three times more likely to report high levels of trust in politicians than those with incomes of around £10-20,000. High-income respondents are also more likely to have higher levels of trust in courts and police. Those earning lower wages are more likely to view politicians as self-serving and working in the interest of the rich and powerful.

The Gender Gap shows the necessity to tackle distrust in politics among women, as less than one in eight women report high levels of trust in their politicians. The survey also found that women were more likely to see nurses, police officers, and bus drivers as public servants than men, and 11% fewer women than men viewed politicians among these public servants. The surveys also reported that women were less likely to write to male MPs and stand for elected office and far more likely to protest in the street and sign petitions.

The Age Gap shows different results as young people are less likely to see politicians as self-serving or politics as a “waste of time”, with 22% of young people having high levels of trust in the government and one in five having high levels of trust in elected politicians. Young people are also more likely to report high levels of trust in police than any other key institution, followed by courts. These figures show that young people are generally more trusting than old people, however, in the UK they have less trust in government than their EU counterparts and are less likely to participate in politics with exceptions of Scottish and EU referendums.

Kezia Dugdale, director of the John Smith Centre said: “There’s little comfort in the truth that trust in politicians and in institutions has always been low.

“This is particularly when you acknowledge a further significant decline after the 2008 economic crash, which is now relevant once again in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Women, people on low incomes and the young represent the three groups most exposed to the economic crisis that will follow Covid-19.

“How institutions, governments and elected officials respond to that crisis will affect their lives more than most – the degree to which they trust those people and institutions matters.

“Where there is optimism, it lies with the young. But the more that young people read about or engage in politics, the more sceptical they become of it.

“An urgent debate is needed as to why trust is so low and what can be done about it.”

The Trilogy on Trust reports can be found online on the University website here.


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