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British Social Attitudes: Nearly half the British public are distrustful of others

13 August 2015 | Tags: British Social Attitudes

New findings published by NatCen Social Research today reveal that almost half of people think “you can’t be too careful when dealing with people”.

The results from NatCen's British Social Attitudes survey show that 48% of the British public are distrustful of others, largely the same as it was in 1998. A similar proportion (47%) thought that people can usually or always be trusted.

Untrustworthy but fair

Despite the public being split on whether other people can be trusted, a majority of Britons (57%) think that people would be fair all or most of the time. This is down from a peak of 66% in 2005, but on a par with levels in 1998.

In 2014, around a third (32%) thought that, given the chance, people would try to take advantage all or most of the time.

Older people and the wealthy are more trusting

The research also found a striking difference in levels of trust between people of different ages and occupational class. Findings show:

  • In 2014, 66% of those aged 65 or over were trusting of other people, saying they would be fair all or most of the time, compared to just 49% of 18-24 year olds.
  • In 2014, 64% of employers and higher managerial professionals said people can usually or always be trusted, compared to 41% of those in routine occupations.

Rachel Ormston, Head of Social Attitudes at NatCen Social Research said:

“It’s not only striking that almost half the population do not trust one another but also that nearly of third of people go as far as to say that given the chance people will try to take advantage of one another most of - if not all - the time.

However, given we identified a similar sentiment back in 1998 the old cliché that the world isn’t what it used to be and society has become somehow disconnected doesn’t necessary bear true. It may be that we’ve never really trusted one another despite the romantic notions attached to days gone.”

ENDS

Data tables available for download here.

For more information contact Sophie Brown: sophie.brown@natcen.ac.uk, 020 7549 9550 or 07734 960 069

NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

Sample and approach – The 2014 survey consisted of 2,878 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. Interviewing was mainly carried out between August and October 2014, with a small number of interviews taking place in November 2014. Addresses are randomly selected and visited by one of NatCen Social Research’s interviewers. After selecting one adult at the address (again at random), the interviewer carries out an hour long interview. Most questions are answered by the participant selecting an answer from a set of cards.