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Public Confidence in Official Statistics 2021

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Published: April 2022

Trust in ONS and the statistics it produces remains high and at a similar level to 2018.

The aim of this study was to explore trust in official statistics in Britain including how these statistics are produced and used. The report explores changes in attitudes to official statistics over time, including the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and variation in attitudes by age, sex, education and occupation.

The survey was previously conducted in 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Findings

Awareness of ONS has increased since 2018 as has the proportion of people using statistics produced by ONS.

  • 75% of people who gave a response had heard of ONS in 2021, up from 70% in 2018.
  • 36% of people who gave a response reported using ONS statistics, up from 24% in 2018. The actual proportion who have used ONS statistics may be even higher than this in practice; people may not necessarily be aware that statistics they have used were produced by ONS.

Trust in ONS and the statistics it produces remains high and at a similar level to 2018.

  • In 2021 89% of those able to express a view said they trust ONS and 87% said they trust ONS statistics.
  • The equivalent figures in 2018 were 88% and 85%.
  • Trust is higher among people who have used ONS statistics compared with those who have not, though still high amongst non-users.

Most people also trust ONS with data they might provide to them.

  • 90% of people agreed that personal information provided to ONS would be kept confidential.
  • People who had taken part in surveys were more likely to agree with this (92%) compared with those who had not (87%). However, even among those who had not taken part in an ONS survey most still agreed that their data would be kept confidential.

More than two in five people have used COVID-19 statistics produced by ONS.

  • 44% of people who gave a response said they had used COVID-19 statistics produced by ONS. Use of COVID-19 statistics was higher than all other data series asked about except for the census.
  • 79% of people able to express a view thought that the COVID-19 statistics were accurate whilst 92% of data users said they were useful. This is similar to views on other data series asked about.
  • People held more mixed views on whether the COVID-19 statistics were free from political interference. 53% of those able to express a view agreed this was the case, the joint lowest level of agreement for any data series asked about.

Methodology

In 2021 PCOS was run for the first time as a stand-alone push-to-web survey.  Previously the questions had been asked as a module on NatCen’s face-to-face British Social Attitudes survey.  The 2021 survey was designed to allow comparisons to be made with previous waves of the survey despite the change in mode.  Further information is included in the accompanying technical report.

Fieldwork took place between 15th October and 20th December 2021. Interviews were achieved with a representative sample of 3,398 adults aged 18 and over in Britain.

Download the report

Download the technical report