British people think that their local councils use evidence more than local MPs in the response to COVID-19

Polling to be released today by Ipsos MORI as part of Evidence Week in Parliament, an annual event that brings together researchers, constituents, and MPs to discuss evidence, asked UK adults how much they believe government ministers, their local MP, and their local council are using evidence in the response to COVID-19.

The public perception that MPs don’t use evidence very much is at odds with their use of research and information services. The House of Commons library has previously reported that they receive 30,000 requests for information a year from MP’s offices.

The top line findings from the poll are that:

  • UK adults think that Government ministers and their local council use evidence more than their local MP when deciding how to respond to COVID-19. Around half think ministers and local councils use evidence at least a fair amount, compared with a third who feel the same about MPs.
  •  39% believe that government ministers use evidence too little compared with their own judgement.
  •  By contrast, just over one in ten Brits (11%) believe that government ministers use evidence too much compared with their own judgement.
  • Councils are most likely to be seen to get their use of evidence right: 43% of Brits believe that their local council uses evidence ‘about the right amount’ compared to their own judgement (compared with three in ten who think ministers and MPs get the balance right)

The polling could represent frustration with the way that national policies have been decided and communicated. The opening of Evidence Week in Parliament on Monday revealed the extent of the demands placed on MPs to be across the range of constantly evolving Covid-19 evidence from epidemiology to revised economic forecasts, options for the protection of care homes, and mental health and educational effects of lockdowns, with only a fraction of the resources of the government departments they scrutinise. Hosted by Sense about Science, the Evidence Week opening event was led by voters questioning their MPs and chairs of Select Committees on use of evidence during Covid-19 and on a range of issues.

Tracey Brown, Director, Sense about Science said: 

As their questions to MPs on Monday showed, voters care about good and accountable use of research and evidence in decisions. MPs don’t seem to be aware how much the public cares, but in turn the public needs to see a bit more of the evidence work MPs actually do. MPs have to be across all kinds of issues every day, from economic forecasts to the feasibility of supporting electric cars, to border controls on livestock, or inequalities in education, without a lot of resource. Maintaining public pressure is important as is ensuring the research community is supporting Parliament

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director of Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI said:

It’s clear that there’s a strong sense from the public that particularly when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for evidence to be used as the basis for policy and decision making is key.

Select Committee chairs revealed that they had been seeking more evidence from government and urging its transparency for the public, including efforts by the Science and Technology Committee to secure publication of SAGE papers.

Technical Note
1. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,121 UK adults aged 18-75. Interviews were conducted online from 6th to 10th November 2020. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

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