Can You Trust A Politician?…..Can Cows Jump Over The Moon?

If you happen to have a US $20 note with you, look now at what’s written on the back. In addition to the country’s name and the amount, you’ll find the words: “In God We Trust”. This might present a dilemma for atheists or agnostics – but there’s nothing they can do about it (except refuse to use American money): The motto has featured on US coins since 1864 and on its paper currency since 1957. There’s no equivalent phrase, though, on British banknotes. If we wish  to express such total confidence in someone in a similar way, who should it be? The Queen? Possibly: The magazine “Standpoint”, prior to the William-Kate Royal Wedding, reported that the monarch’s personal approval ratings, as measured by opinion polls, “regularly top 80%”. But, as her face already appears on the front , that might be enough even for her most fervent supporters. The solution could be provided by a recent “You Gov” survey, which has indicated that “Family doctors are considered the most reliable members of society”: 85% of the population believe that their General Practicioner (GP) tells them the truth. School teachers (76%) are second in the “trust league”, followed by the people who run national charities (67%), local police officers (66%) and judges (63%) .

However, at the other end of the list, there are many professions which are viewed far less favourably. According to “You Tube”, 83% of UK residents distrust tabloid journalists. Estate agents “are not considered particularly reliable either”: Their “distrust rating” is 79%. Other groups that we are apparently suspicious of include senior EU (European Union) officials and the “quality journalists” such as BBC TV’s Andrew Marr, who presents their influential Sunday morning political programme “AM”: He has been widely criticised (especially by Ian Hislop, Editor of the satirical magazine “Private Eye”) for having taken out a “super-injunction” (which he has now withdrawn) in 2008 to stop the press revealing the details of an extra-marital affair five years previously – even though Marr’s own role as a prominent media commentator  (as described in a “Sunday Times” article on 1st May) is to “challenge politicians about their failings and their lapses in judgement, including in their private lives”. Meanwhile, additional categories we are less inclined to believe (according to “You Gov”) are: Senior civil servants in Whitehall, senior council officials, NHS (National Health Service) hospital managers, the directors of large companies and trade union leaders – all of whom “are more likely to inspire cynicism than faith”.

Other organizations have also published  their own “Top Ten” of the most distrusted professions in Britain. In research conducted by the Co-Operative Bank , the politicians almost inevitably occupy the leading position. This, of course, is nothing new, nor is it restricted to the UK: The American science-fiction writer, Frank Herbert, once observed that he had particular misgivings about those who claim “they want to improve our lives”. His compatriot and suspense, fantasy & horror author, Stephen King, considers that “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool” (though he was not referring exclusively to politicians). The “This Is Money” columnist, Dan Hyde, has pointed out that the “ parliamentary expenses scandal”  exposed by the newspapers played a major role in influencing the voters’ hostile attitude towards MPs – to which can now be added the Liberal Democrat Party’s reversal of commitments they made before the May 2010 General Election not to sanction  increases in student tuition fees or  drastic & hasty cuts in Government spending. Dan Hyde also notes that the “bashing of bankers” (2nd in the Co-Operative Bank’s table) has become “a popular sport” in Britain: “Wealthy City workers have been lampooned for their extravagant bonuses, many of which have been collected despite their banks leaning on the taxpayer for bailout cash”. In third place, yet again, are the journalists. After them: Car salesmen, estate agents, electricians, plumbers, builders, car mechanics and (at number 10) footballers. A separate investigation – this time by “” – has  produced slightly different results. This time  the journalists are completely absent from the “10 Least Distrusted List”. Politicians (as always) are at No 1 (68%), pursued closely by estate agents ( 59%), then plumbers (54%), door-to-door salesmen (47%), taxi-drivers (46%), sportmen (41%), bankers (at a surprisingly low 38%), lawyers (37%), bricklayers (32%) and accountants (29% at no.10). When asked about “ which personality traits make a professional untrustworthy”, 54% of those interviewed chose “ not answering a question directly”, 44% didn’t trust “an unattractive appearance” and 36% felt that “ men are less trustworthy than women”.

The “Edelman Trust Barometer  Findings 2011”,released in conjunction with the “Financial Times” earlier this year, looked at the issue of trust internationally. The company describes itself as “ the world’s leading independent public relations firm with 3,700 employees in 53 cities worldwide” It’s annual study is based on the responses from “5,075 people in 23 nations on five continents, aged between 25-64,college educated and in the top 25% of household income in each country”. They  concluded that, while confidence in business, government, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and the media has declined from 53% to 42% in the USA and from 43% to 40% in the UK since 2008, there has been an opposite trend in Brazil (48% to 80%) and China (62% to 73%) during the same period. Emerging markets such as India (up to 70% compared to 67% last year) now dominate as “business trusters”, but the USA has dropped to within five points of Russia (down by one point to 41%). Edelman’s figures furthermore suggest that trust in the media has slumped from 38% to 27% in the USA and from 31% to 22% in Britain over the past twelve months. Globally, respondents to the study indicated that – when they need news or information about a company – they go first to an online search engine (29%), then other online news sources (19%). After these: Newspapers and magazines (15%), Radio & TV (12%), the company’s website (11%), and friends and family (7%). The social media (5%) came last in this section – possibly due to increasing concerns about the security of personal data on sites such as the Sony PSN (PlayStation Network) service, where credit card records have been accessed by hackers and Facebook’s “location sharing” facility. In the UK, the more traditional scams persist – for example, residents in Telford (West Midlands) being told by “local officials” that they have paid too much Council Tax and are entitled to a rebate. They are then asked to supply personal information .including bank accounts and credit card details. In Hillingdon, bogus charity companies have been collecting unwanted clothing and other items from households, supposedly for “families in need” but in practice selling them for a profit. The advice from “Traderscams” is: Never trust a tradesman with an offer which seems too good to be true and never sign a contract without thoroughly checking both the individual and the company they purport to represent.







Filed under: Politics | Posted on May 10th, 2011 by Colin D Gordon

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