Polling the Nolan principles: The public’s take on ethical standards in public life

Survation interviewed 4,014 residents online 18+ living in the UK on the topic. Fieldwork was conducted between 11th-15th November 2021.


Nationally, 6 in 10 (59%) people believe that the Government does not uphold the principle of integrity. 4 in 10 (44%) say the same of the Labour Party.


Almost half (49%) of all 2019 Conservative voters do not believe the Government acts with either integrity or honesty.


55% of the public believe Boris Johnson as Prime Minister does not exhibit leadership. Only 1 in 3 (32%) says he does.


Polling also shows a decline of the Conservative lead over Labour seen in October to “level pegging”.


As the fallout from the Government’s attempt to change the rules overseeing MPs behaviour and second jobs continues, new Survation polling – commissioned by campaigning organisation 38 Degrees – shows the reputation of the Government among the wider public and their own voters is at a low ebb.

With national polls tightening, the latest Survation national results put Labour and the Conservatives on level pegging – 37%, a change on the last round of Survation results published in October, which had the Conservatives enjoying a four point lead (39% to 35%).

When it comes to the reputation of the Government, almost 6 in 10 (59%) people do not believe the government upholds the Nolan principle of integrity, and 62% do not believe it upholds the principle of honesty.

Of potentially concern for Downing Street is the finding that the verdict of Conservative 2019 voters on standards is also poor. Around half (49%) of Conservative 2019 voters do not believe that the current government upholds values of honesty and integrity. A minority (35% and 32% respectively) believed that they do, with the balance saying don’t know.

As questions about political integrity continue to be a focus in Westminster, the polling shows the Government’s reputation for standards in public life is poor among groups considered a key part of the Conservatives’ base:

      • Two-thirds of pensioners (66%) think the Government does not uphold the principle of integrity.
      • More than half (56%) of Leave voters think the Government does not uphold integrity.

The 7 Nolan principles of public life

Questions asked the public to rate the government political figures and parties on the 7 Nolan principles of public life – ethical standards people who hold public office must follow: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The measure was brought in under then Prime Minister John Major in 1995, following the ‘cash for questions’ scandal.


On the current government:


On Boris Johnson: 


On the Conservative Party: 


And on the Labour Party:


2019 Conservative voters also said that they believed the Government does not act with openness, selflessness, honesty and integrity:


The polling shows that the British public are also disaffected with MPs in general:


However, the wider public believes that their own MP is more likely to uphold the principles of public life:


Full Data tables and methodology can be found here.

Survation. is an MRS company partner, a member of the British Polling Council and abides by their rules. To find out more about Survation’s services, and how you can conduct a telephone or online poll for your research needs, please visit our services page.

If you are interested in commissioning research or to learn more about Survation’s research capabilities, please contact John Gibb on 020 3818 9661 email or visit our services page.

For press enquiries, please call 0203 818 9661 or email

BPC Statement: All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points.

< Back