Doctors are the most trusted profession among school children

Our new survey on trust in professions conducted among over 2,600 secondary school age children finds that doctors are the most trusted profession.

Doctors are the most trusted profession among school children

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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Doctors are the most trusted profession among school children; journalists and the ordinary person in the street are least trusted

Secondary school-age children trust teachers and the ordinary person in the street less than their parents do

A new Ipsos MORI survey of over 2,600 secondary school age children finds that doctors are the profession most trusted to tell the truth, while journalists and the ordinary man or woman in the street are the least trusted. Eighty-eight percent said that they felt doctors could be trusted to tell the truth, compared to just 13% who said the same for the man in the street. Half (49%) say they do not trust journalists to tell the truth.

School teachers rate well, with 62% of children saying they trust their teachers to tell the truth. As 17% do not trust them, their “net trust” score (the proportion who trust them, minus the proportion who do not) is +45%. However, on this measure they do not make the top five professions, ranking sixth behind the clergy (+46%) scientists (+53%), judges (+64%) and the Police (+71%), as well as doctors.

Top 5 most trusted professions
1 Doctors 83%
2 The Police 71%
3 Judges 64%
4 Scientists 53%
5= Clergy 46%
5= Teachers 45%

 

Top 5 least trusted professions
1 Man/woman in the street -30%
2 Journalists -27%
3 Estate Agents -14%
4 Politicians generally -12%
5= Television newsreaders -8%

 

There are differences by ethnicity: although the base is relatively small (133 schoolchildren), children from black ethnic backgrounds are significantly more likely to report distrust in a wide range of authority figures. The most striking examples include teachers, where net trust among black schoolchildren lags by at least thirty percentage points (+9%, compared with between +43% and +51% for other ethnicities), and the police, where the gap is bigger still at around 40 percentage points (+25% for black pupils, versus +67% to +75% for other ethnicities).

Table 1: Net trust in selected professions by ethnicity
  All schoolchildren White Black Asian Mixed
Doctors +84% +85% +63% +79% +84%
The Police +71% +75% +25% +71% +67%
Scientists +53% +57% +26% +42% +59%
Teachers +45% +47% +9% +51% +43%

 

This data can also be compared against the most recent edition of the Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, a telephone poll of adults aged 15+ conducted in November 2016 that asked the same question about a similar list of professions. The key differences between adults and children in trust in professions are:

  • Adults trust teachers much more than schoolchildren do – the net trust score for teachers amongst adults was +79%, compared to +45% for pupils
  • Schoolchildren are substantially less trusting of the “ordinary man/woman in the street”, giving them a -30% net trust score. For adults the score was +36%, a difference of 66 percentage points.
  • Schoolchildren are less distrustful of politicians; they are evenly split on the trustworthiness of government ministers (-1% net trust), and mildly distrustful overall of politicians generally (-12%). The figures for adults are -56% and -67% respectively.
  • Other professions where pupils are more trusting than adults include the Police (a net trust difference of +27 percentage points), bankers (+55ppt difference), local councillors (+25ppt) and lawyers (+23ppt). Pupils are also more positive about – but still distrustful of – estate agents and journalists.
  • Other professions where children are less trusting than adults include hairdressers and TV newsreaders.
Table 2: Net Trust in professions: comparison of children and adults
  Net Trust: Children Net trust Adults (2016) Difference in net trust
The man/woman in the street -30% +36% 66
Bankers +34% -21% 55
Government Ministers -1% -56% 55
Politicians generally -12% -67% 55
Television Newsreaders -8% +39% 47
Teachers +45% +79% 34
The Police +71% +44% 27
Local Councillors +16% -9% 25
Lawyers +31% +8% 23
Hairdressers +19% +42% 23
Estate Agents -14% -35% 21
Journalists -27% -47% 20
Scientists +53% +65% 12
Pollsters +1% +7% 6
The Clergy/Priests +46% +43% 3
Judges +64% +65% 1
Doctors +83% +83% 0

 

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, said

Young people tend to be pretty trusting in classic authority figures – doctors, the police and judges. This is not surprising, but a few other findings stand out as unexpected or worrying – in particular, their very low level in trust of the man or woman in the street, who are the least trusted among all the groups asked about. This will no doubt be partly a result of the warnings young people receive on “stranger danger”, but it is still a worry that so many are suspicious of adults in general.
This is also one of the biggest differences from the results among adults, who trust other adults much more.  But there are other differences - in particular, young people trust their teachers much less than their parents do, which is maybe understandable as they see them close up much more regularly.
And it’s likely to be a mirror effect that explains their higher trust in bankers and politicians than we find in the adult survey - they’re too young to have acquired the cynicism (or realism) about these groups’ trustworthiness.
Young people in general also trust the police much more than adults do – which is encouraging for the service.  However, more worrying is that young black people in the survey are notably less trusting in them than children from other ethnicities.  And perhaps most worrying of all, young black people in the study trust their teachers even less, with a third saying they don’t trust them, twice the level of other ethnicities.

Technical Note:

  • The 2017 Ipsos MORI Young Person Omnibus is a survey of 2,612 young people aged 11-16 in England and Wales.
  • Pupils were selected from a random sample of schools drawn from the Edubase database (a database of schools supplied by the Department for Education).
  • Data is weighted by school year, gender and region to match the profile of school children across England and Wales.
  • Results are based on all pupils providing an answer to each question, unless stated otherwise.
  • An asterisk (*) represents a value of less than half a per cent, but not zero. Where results do not sum to 100%, this is due to multiple responses or computer rounding.
  • Veracity Index 2016 details: Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,019 adults aged 15+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by face-to-face between 14th October – 1st November 2016.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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