The Speaker
Wednesday, 24 July 2024 – 22:08

Young people struggling to trust politicians during pandemic

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

Now is perhaps one of the most important times where people want to be able to trust politicians. 

In the middle of a global pandemic, which has already led to the confirmed deaths of over 40,000 people in the UK alone, members of the public rightfully want to know that they can trust politicians to tell the truth and make the right decisions as often as possible.

However, when we spoke to members of the public about this, they said that recent events have made the element of trust hard to have in those leading us through the current emergency. We spoke to different young people to find out their views on trust in politicians during the pandemic and have included some of their responses below…


Jayde Edwards told us that she had been unable to trust government officials during the Coronavirus crisis;

“The truth from the Government has been the top priority. There has been great eagerness amongst citizens to be told the right information to ensure we all keep safe and we don’t loose our loved ones.

It would be easy to say that I have trusted government officials but that is just not the case. There has not been enough unity amongst those in power.

Many messages have been sent out on the things we should and shouldn’t be doing. The leaders of different parts of the United Kingdom are sending out different messages leaving confusion amongst those who don’t deserve to be confused. All over media outlets I have seen politicians pulling down one another and criticising one another. I have seen politicians breaking the rules instead of being the example for others to follow.

This time we have all experienced has been the most challenging and sensitive time for us all. Regardless of who we are, it has affected us all and instead of the government standing together regardless of political interest, it has caused confusion.”

Both politicians and scientists who have been helping to lead the response to the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK have been accused of breaking lockdown rules. This has led to some public anger and is also believed to have had some impact on the behaviours of some people and their abidance to lockdown measures. The key cases of politicians and scientists breaking the lockdown include;  

Kieran Burt told us that he thinks trust in politicians is extremely important right now, but it is difficult to have due to politicians seemingly breaking lockdown rules;

“During the COVID19 pandemic, trust in politicians is extremely important because the public need to follow the government’s regulations for their safety, and for the most part I think the public has followed lockdown rules, showing that they trust the government and this was reflected in opinion polls.

However, the issue with Dominic Cummings with him allegedly breaking lockdown rules impacted public trust as it gave the impression that there were one set of rules for those in power and a different set of rules for everyone else.

This caused trust in the government to fall, at a crucial moment where schools are about to partially return, which is already controversial. This makes politicians jobs a lot harder, as they need people to follow the rules and have faith that the rules will allow for a return to normal life quickly, but without endangering life.”

Henry Bishop also told us that on reflection, trusting politicians in recent times has not been an easy task;

“It is hard for me to have trust in politicians as a whole at present when I reflect back on the events following the 2016 referendum. I witnessed politicians working to defy a democratic mandate, creating a precedent that politicians don’t have to represent the people. This level of distrust and polarization has been immensely damaging for the country, stoking division amongst citizens and creating great intolerance for differing viewpoints and opinions. Now, in the time of Coronavirus, a lack of trust in politicians and government makes it much harder for the government to get its message across and in effect, costs lives.”

 Henry did though also say that he felt the media ‘plays a part in promoting distrust in politicians’;

“The recent Cummings’ story was founded on a lie and while elements turned out to be true, the Media’s input into promoting a largely false story leaves me in little doubt that the media plays a part in promoting distrust in politicians. As political pundits seek for ‘gotcha’ moments or write stories that they don’t know to be entirely accurate, they are promoting a toxic culture that encourages people to ignore politicians and government advice at a time when it is most crucial that we listen. So in my view, while distrust in politicians is often justified and there are undoubtedly moments of politicians provoking such distrust, the Media’s hunger for political drama creates further distrust in politicians when there is a lack of justifiable reason for it and this has greater consequences, especially when the country should be uniting in the face of a global pandemic.”

The results of a poll by YouGov in April suggested that despite speculation suggesting otherwise, trust in the media had not collapsed up to that point during the pandemic. Thre have been many though who have raised questions about the media during the pandemic, including about the questions they are asking of the UK government and what they have been reporting. 

Opinion has been and will continue to be mixed about the UK’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On the issue of trust, while some have managed to retain trust in the government during these challenging times, it appears many are now finding this increasingly difficult.

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