The Constitution Unit


Public Preferences for Integrity and Accountability in Politics

A cropped and rearranged version of the front cover of the report

Read the report (pdf)

Public confidence in our democratic process is at a low ebb. Many commentators now view political reform as essential for restoring equilibrium and confidence, while others think rebuilding trust requires not tinkering with process, but delivering policy outcomes.

In this context, clear understanding of public preferences and priorities is essential. This report sets out the findings of a major survey of public attitudes to the operation of our democratic system fielded by YouGov in late August and early September 2022, during the final stages of the Conservative leadership contest that followed Boris Johnson’s resignation. The survey was the second wave in a two-wave study, following an earlier survey conducted in the summer of 2021.

The key findings from this survey were as follows:

  • Respondents indicated low trust in politicians – even lower than in summer 2021. 
  • There was overwhelming public appetite for stronger mechanisms to uphold integrity among politicians, including more powerful independent regulators. 
  • The vast majority of respondents wanted leaders to be held accountable through a system of checks and balances. Most wanted checks and balances to be tighter than they are today. 
  • Most wanted a stronger parliament and thought ministers should not be able to change the law without full parliamentary scrutiny.
  • Views on voting systems were mixed, but somewhat favoured a more proportional system. 
  • Views on reform of the House of Lords were also mixed. There was near-consensus on some moderate reforms, but not on creating an elected chamber. 
  • There was strong support for the role of judges in adjudicating disputes about the role of government and in protecting human rights. These views were robust to numerous ways of putting the questions. 
  • Few people wanted to get much more involved in politics than they are. Most felt they knew too little to get more involved, didn’t like how politics works, or didn’t think they would make a difference.
  • Views on referendums were mixed. Most respondents supported citizens’ assemblies, but knowing a proposal came from such an assembly barely increased support for it. 
  • The most popular democratic reform would be if ‘politicians spoke more honestly’. 
  • While the cost of living and the NHS were people’s top priorities, they cared about the health of democracy in the UK as much as about, for example, crime or immigration.

The Constitution Unit held an event to mark the launch of this report on 23 March 2023, featuring experts in political science and public opinion. A recording of this event can be found below.

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Listen to the event as a podcast

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