Will austerity and lack of trust in the media and government drive a Brexit?

2nd February 2016 / United Kingdom

It should come as no surprise that public trust in ‘mainstream media’ has plummeted. Like the US, the UK is slowly becoming an authoritarian state where government is supported by a small group of individuals whose commercial interests dictate the narrative over public interest. TTIP is a good example.

The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that the general public do not trust mainstream media or their government in Britain. The 2015 report found that just 38 per cent of the population trust the media and that number is a 4 per cent fall on the previous year. Increases in distrust in business, government, NGOs and media coincided with the period of financial crisis.

The 2016 report makes for some interesting reading as the public’s political focus has changed, notably that migration and Brexit is now the topic driving political debate.

The latest report found that an enormous ‘trust gap’ has emerged with austerity affected Britons trusting government much less than the well off. One should not forget that there are considerably more of the less well off and this could easily drive the future direction of Britain in 2016 when the EU referendum takes place.

It is ironic that austerity, driven by the ideology of a wealthy powerful elite is creating a cynical class of Brexit voters who hugely outnumber them.

Few people now believe that politicians represent them any more. Honest straight-talking by political leaders top the wishlist of UK citizens as an increasing number of disengaged Britons struggle to even name party leaders. In the survey, not a single politician, the prime minister especially but not even Jeremy Corbyn has convinced (more than hardcore supporters) the public that they are acting in their best interests.

Trust in government amongst those caught in the austerity drive, and that is most of the country, has fallen to 26 percent but trust amongst those earning more than £100,000 has increased to 54 percent.

The SNP has the highest number of supporters with 45 percent of the population trusting their political leaders.

Labour has fallen 10 points in two years to 31 percent, while the Lib Dems have a trust score of 23 percent, 8 percentage points down on their 2014 trust score. Over the same period, UKIP has also dropped 10 points, to 19 percent.

When it comes to Brexit itself, people who are interested in and follow political debate, 61 percent want to stay in Europe, only 26 percent want to leave. In contrast, those suffering most under austerity with household incomes of under £15,000, would vote for a Brexit by a margin of 47 percent (to leave) to 34 percent (to stay). TruePublica takes the view that the general public that outweighs many other groups will indeed vote for Brexit because of austerity. On polls we’ve seen, we think the vote will end up in favour of l;leaving the EU at around 53 percent.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s trust score of 18% was only just over half of Ed Miliband’s standing of 33 percent two years ago. New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron tied Mr Corbyn, trusted by just 18 percent, and far below his predecessor Nick Clegg’s 27 percent in 2014.

There were two findings in the survey when participants were asked what issues would make them trust their politicians. The first, unsurprisingly was honesty (44%) and the other was the management of refugees and migrants (34%).

Again, it should be of no surprise that successful and well paid people are happy with their government; the struggling far less so.

There is more to all this polling and surveys when it comes to the continual debate of Britain’s future in the EU.

In 1980, 71 percent of the population wanted out of the EU. This was a time of severe global recession. Anti EU sentiment fell massively a decade later to 30 percent when the good times returned. When the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, bringing a new recession the stay-in crowd turned and more than half of the country wanted Britain out again. The recovery was swift, happy days arrived again and everyone was pro-Europe until 2009 when it was apparent that this new recession was going to hurt. Various government interventions took place during 2011/12 giving the effect that economic performance was gaining ground and public sentiment to staying-in gained with it. As the economy has clearly started to show signs of weakness again, attitudes to Brexit are changing again.


A poll commissioned just two weeks ago for the Mail on Sunday as reported by The Express revealed that 53% of Britons now want out of the EU, compared to 47% who believe we should stay in. Other recent polls show 50/50 splits, notably after the Paris attacks.

Could it be that the EU referendum result is dependent not on who has the most convincing argument, because the public already inherently distrust politicians and the media, but how people are feeling austerity is affecting them? 

Graham Vanbergen – truepublica.org.uk


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