British Confidence in Banks No Better Than in 2009, Survey Shows

Public confidence in U.K. banks is no higher than in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2009, with only 19 percent of Britons saying they are well managed, according to the British Social Attitudes Report.

“Unsurprisingly, British banking has witnessed a huge loss in confidence,” the annual report conducted by the NatCen Social Research said. “Around 90 percent of the public viewed banks as well run during the 1980s.”

Banks including Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Barclays Plc (BARC) have been fined after a worldwide probe uncovered attempts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, the global benchmark for $300 trillion of securities. The industry has also had to pay out billions of pounds to compensate people mis-sold payment-protection and identity-theft insurance products.

Fewer than one in five of the population trust government to put the needs of the country above the interests of their own political party “just about always” or “most of the time,” down from about two in five in 1987, according to the report, which was published on the NatCen website today.

People’s opinion of individual politicians is even lower. Asked whether they trust politicians of any party in Britain to tell the truth when they are under pressure, 93 percent said “almost never” or “only some of the time.”

One institution that is bucking the trend is the monarchy. In 1983, 65 percent of respondents said it was “very important” for Britain to continue to have a royal family. About 10 years later that fell to 32 percent and by 2006 was just 27 percent. Since then it has risen to 45 percent, with only 5 percent wanting to see the monarchy abolished.

EU Membership

“The public is taking an increasing interest in politics, feels a greater sense of political understanding and is more determined to have its say, yet has lost faith in the institutions that are essential in a functioning democracy,” Penny Young, chief executive of NatCen Social Research, said. “Meanwhile the popularity of the most undemocratic British institution of all, the Royal Family, is on the rise.”

Skepticism about Britain’s membership of the European Union is in the ascendancy, the report showed, with a record 67 percent of those surveyed wanting either to leave the bloc or for Britain to remain in a less powerful EU.

The view that benefits for unemployed people are “too high and discourage work” fell from a high of 62 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2012. There has been a five percentage point increase since 2011 in the view that cutting benefits “would damage too many people’s lives,” with almost half of those surveyed now holding this view. About 34 percent of people support more spending on benefits, even if it means higher taxes, up from 28 percent in 2011, the report said.

Jobless Attitudes

The tougher economic climate may also be softening people’s views about unemployment, the report found. In the five years prior to the financial crisis and subsequent recession about two thirds of people felt that the unemployed could find a job if they really wanted to, the report said. This fell from 68 percent in 2008 to 55 percent in 2009 and stood at 54 percent in 2012.

The 2012 survey consisted of 3,248 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. Addresses are randomly selected and visited by one of NatCen Social Research’s interviewers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Farrand in Edinburgh at tfarrand@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Eddie Buckle at ebuckle@bloomberg.net

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