New polling shows crisis of faith in democracy

A new report by Matt Warman MP, ‘Who Governs Britain?’, sheds light on the huge disconnect between the public and the political system. With a maximum of only 9% of Britons placing significant faith in any layer of government to do the right thing by them, this is truly a crisis of confidence in our democracy.

Polling of more than 2,000 UK adults by research company Deltapoll shows public awareness of and faith in elected officials is appallingly low, fuelling a feeling of powerlessness that risks damaging mainstream politics. It clearly sets out the problems facing politicians who need to engage the public in their ideas if they are to truly govern by consent.

The starkest findings include:

  • 40% of people had no trust at all in the House of Commons
  • Only 71% of respondents understood that MPs make laws affecting them
  • Only 61% of respondents understood that the same applied to the EU
  • The most popular answer, when asked which level of government acts most in Britons’ interest, is “none of them”
  • 49% of Londoners are unaware they have an elected Mayor, or that he had powers that affect their lives
  • 42% of those in Scotland, and 54% of those in Wales, were similarly unaware that the devolved governments made or enforced laws applying to them
  • When mapped against postcodes, 0% of respondents were able to correctly identify all of the layers of government that applied to them

Even the biggest issue of the day does not escape the public’s ignorance. 15% of people did not know we are still members of the European Union – and 19% of 18- to 24-year olds believe the UK has already left it.

One potential reason for this lack of faith in elected officials is the lack of contact many have with those they seek to represent. When asked if they had had contact with an elected representative, a huge majority said no. In fact, 74% had not had contact from their MP, and only slightly more had heard from district, county, or borough councils, with 65% reporting no contact at all.

The report is the latest from the CPS’ New Generation programme, which provides a platform for members of the 2015 and 2017 intakes of MPs and other new voices.

In his Foreword to the report, the Rt Hon David Lidington MP said:
“The stark polling results [this paper] sets out show that too many people simply don’t know where power sits, or have faith in the people at all tiers of government who discharge it. Whatever party you are in, that should be troubling.

“If individuals feel less powerful and less connected to their elected representatives, we must take steps to understand why – and take steps to change it – or risk lasting damage to mainstream politics.”

Matt Warman MP said:
“It’s clear from this polling that people do not feel properly represented by those in power.

“A situation where over a quarter of people are unaware that Members of Parliament make laws that affect them is very worrying for democracy.

“If we are to truly govern by consent, this must change, I believe the proposals put forward in this report will be starting point for this action.”

Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said:
“This new polling illustrates the extraordinary size of the problem our politicians are facing.

“Given the level of media coverage around the Brexit negotiations, the fact that 19% of the young adults we surveyed thought we’d already left the EU is frankly astounding.

“The British people are simultaneously sceptical of government and largely ignorant about it. That is hardly a recipe for a healthy democracy.”


For further information, or to book Centre for Policy Studies spokesmen, please contact the Centre for Policy Studies Press Office on 07741 642251 (calls only) or email [email protected].


  • ‘Who Governs Britain?’ is published by the Centre for Policy Studies and launched with a parliamentary reception with Damian Green MP and Chloe Smith MP on Monday 23 July 2018.
  • The full polling can be found here and here.
  • The Centre for Policy Studies is one of Britain’s leading think tanks, and the home of a new generation of conservative thinking. Our mission is to widen enterprise, ownership and prosperity.
  • Matt Warman MP is the Member of Parliament for Boston and Skegness, elected in 2015. In Parliament Matt has particularly focused on the impact of technology on public services and democracy in the digital age.
  • ‘New Generation’ is the Centre for Policy Studies’ flagship programme, promoting fresh policy ideas from MPs from the 2015 and 2017 parliamentary intakes, among other new voices.

Date Added: Sunday 22nd July 2018