Public Associate Politicians With Economic Crime
The UK Anti-Corruption Coalition commissioned Survation to conduct a major new survey of 6,466 people across Great Britain, and to analyse the data using multilevel regression and poststratification analysis (MRP) modelling to understand public opinion on economic crime.
Economic crime is perceived as a serious issue throughout Britain and there is a clear appetite for the government to tackle the issue, with 85% reporting it is important to them for the Government to tackle economic crime – a majority of which (54%) state it is very important. Although 83% take economic crime and its effects seriously, there is a disconnect between how serious the issue is to the public and how seriously people think the Government currently takes the issue. Just 46% believe the Government takes economic crime seriously. Most (86%) believe the Government should take the issue more seriously, and this view is held by a near unanimous 96% of over 65s.
Throughout the research, older voters consistently viewed economic crime more seriously than younger voters. Shown below is the relationship between the proportion of people aged over 65 in a constituency, and the percentage of people within a constituency who view the issue of money laundering, corruption, and fraud, and its effect on the UK seriously.
There was lower levels of regional variation in how seriously people take the issue of money laundering, corruption, and fraud, and its effect than on other questions. This is demonstrated by the geographic spread of the constituencies with the highest percentage of respondents taking the issues seriously. London, which proves an outlier across a number of issues in this research, is generally aligned with the rest of Britain on this question. While 27 of its 75 constituencies fall in the bottom 100 with the lowest proportion of residents who view the issue seriously, 10 land in the top 100 including Cities of London and Westminster (5th), Kensington and Bayswater (12th ), and Hampstead and Highgate (32nd).
2019 Conservative were marginally more likely to think the government should be taking economic crime more seriously than other voters. Those intending to vote Conservative were also, however, 22% more likely (67%) than the sample average to think the Government takes the issue seriously – the reciprocal figure for undecided voters was just 37%.
We asked respondents what effect they think economic crime has on the British economy. While a majority (56%) believe economic crime has a negative impact, there is clearly some uncertainty. Given ‘crime’ will likely conjure negative sentiment, it is surprising that 14% think it has a positive effect and 15% believe it does not impact the economy (with 14% responding ‘don’t know’).
Younger respondents were much more ambivalent, as 32% of those aged 18-24 believe economic crime has no effect on the economy – a view held by just 5% of over 65s. More than two-thirds (68%) of those aged 65+ think its impact is negative compared to just 40% of 18-24s.
2019 Conservative voters were 5% more likely to think economic crime has a negative effect on the economy than Labour voters, but when it came to current voting intentions those intending to vote Labour were as likely as those intending to vote Conservative to say its effects were negative. Undecided voters were more likely to suggest its effect were negative than those who expressed an intention to vote for either the Conservatives or Labour.
Regionally, the view that economic crime has a negative impact on the economy is a minority (49%) position in both London and the West Midlands, compared to being held by 61% in the North West and South East.
The three groups and professions most associated with economic crime were politicians (55%), oligarchs and kleptocrats (45%), and senior executives of big businesses (44%). This view was most pronounced among 18-24s, where 59% selected politicians, 36% senior executives, and oligarchs just 16%. It is possible younger respondents were not familiar with the language of ‘oligarchs and kleptocrats’, but it is nonetheless striking that those aged 18-34 were more likely to associate celebrities with economic crime than the former. Conversely, those aged 65+ were by far the most likely to associate economic crime with oligarchs and kleptocrats, at 71%. This group were also the least likely (43%) to associate politicians with economic crime.
Leave voters (49%) were less suspicious of politicians than Remain voters (59%), while those intending to vote Conservative were far less likely to associate politicians (39%) with economic crime than Labour (64%), Green (60%), Liberal Democrat (55%), and undecided voters (55%).
There is a clear appetite for limiting the extent to which the property market is a site of economic crime. Three in four (74%) think the government should make it more difficult for individuals to purchase property in the UK with money made through illegal or illicit means, and 75% think it is important to know whether an individual purchasing property made their money through illegal or illicit means. Again, likelihood of supporting these two viewpoints increased with respondents’ age.
Increasing the difficulty of purchasing property with money made through illegal or illicit means was most popular in the South East and South West of England. Of the 91 constituencies in the South East, 28 are among the 100 seats with the highest proportion of people who would favour the government making property purchases more difficult – led by New Forest West (2nd) and Bexhill and Battle (3rd) In the South West, where there are 58 constituencies, 28 appear appear in the top 100, including Christchurch (1st) and West Dorset (4th). When combined, these two regions account for less than one quarter of all seats, but they make up more than half (58) of the 100 seats most supportive of government action in this area.
London demonstrates lower levels of support for both the government making it more difficult for individuals involved in economic crime to purchase property and the importance of knowing how those purchasing property made their money. While a majority support the measure, one in four Londoners oppose the Government making it more difficult for individuals to purchase property in the UK with money made through illegal or illicit means. In the chart below, the red line indicates the average support within all constituencies.
Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (147th) is the only constituency in London which falls in the top 200 seats when ranked by levels of support for increased restrictions. No constituency in inner London is in the top 250, the first to appear being the re-established Hampstead and Highgate (266th). Of the 75 constituencies in the capital, 41 are in the bottom 100.
Despite the concern with economic crime, no party is particularly trusted to address the issue. When asked to identify which political party they trust the least to deal with corruption and economic crime, 37% selected the Conservatives – the most of any party. Even among over 65s, a group in which the Conservatives held a 10 point lead over Labour at the time of this poll, 37% identified the Conservatives as the party they trust the least. One in five trust Labour the least, which is slightly less than the 23% who answered ‘don’t know’.
In the reciprocal question, just 16% of people trust the Conservatives the most to deal with economic crime and corruption. This rises to 37% among those who voted for the party in 2019, which looks weak when compared to the 65% of 2019 Labour voters who said they trusted the party they voted for the most. Labour were the most trusted party overall (29%).
There is widespread uncertainty when it comes to which party is trusted to deal with economic crime. A greater proportion of respondents said they did not know which party they trust the most to deal with corruption and economic crime than identified a specific party. Three quarters (73%) of currently undecided voters could not answer who they trust the most; a majority (55%) also said they did not know who they trusted the least. Coupling this with the strong associations the public made between politicians and economic crime, we find widespread distrust of the political class on the issue of economic crime and uncertainty on who is best placed to satisfy the appetite for reform.
Get the data
The full report from the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition can be accessed here.
Survation conducted an online poll of 6,466 adults aged 18+ living in Great Britain on behalf of the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition. Fieldwork was conducted between 26th September - 9th October 2023. Standard tables are available here and MRP outputs here, here, and here.
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