Trust in newspaper and Government-presented statistics ‘increasing’

The number of people who think the Government and newspapers present official figures honestly has increased, according to new research.

Nearly a third (31%) of people in Britain in 2018 agreed that the Government presents official figures honestly, compared with 26% in 2016 and 28% in 2014, according to social researchers NatCen.

Meanwhile nearly a quarter (23%) of people said in 2018 that newspapers honestly present official statistics, compared with 18% in 2016 and 19% in 2014.

“This finding suggests that confidence in how the media and Government present official statistics, whilst still comparatively low amongst the general population, does appear to be increasing,” the report stated.

The research was commissioned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the UK Statistics Authority to analyse public trust in national statistics and the way they are presented by various institutions.

Westminster
Public trust in the Government’s presentation of official statistics has increased, the report says (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Researchers found that while the top reason given by respondents for distrusting ONS statistics was that they had been misrepresented by politicians or the media, the figure has fallen from 31% in 2016 to 24% in 2018.

The next most common reasons given in 2018 for distrusting ONS statistics was that figures alone do not tell the whole story and the Government has a vested interest in the results (both 23%).

The report also found 93% of people agreed ONS statistics are important for understanding the country and “there remains almost universal agreement that it is important for an independent body like the UK Statistics Authority to ensure official statistics are free from political interference and to speak out publicly against misuse of official statistics”.

Better-off people with higher levels of education are “more likely to trust ONS statistics and to be more positive about official statistics in general”, the report added.

Researchers also found that there is no clear relationship between age and trust in official statistics.

Public awareness of the ONS stands at 69%, while awareness of the UK Statistics Authority is 30%, according to the report.

NatCen interviewed 1,968 adults between July and November 2018 as part of the survey.

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