Two Thirds of People Think Politics is Becoming More Corrupt

The Anti-Corruption Coalition commissioned Survation to investigate public opinion on political corruption. We polled 6,466 people across Great Britain and analysed the data using multilevel regression and poststratification Analysis (MRP).


In the question below, we asked respondents to identify the groups and professions they most associate with economic crime. Concerningly, politicians were the group most associated with economic crime – beating oligarchs and kleptocrats by +10 points.



Younger respondents were the most likely to associate politicians with economic crime but even among those aged 65+, where politicians were not the group most associated with economic crime (oligarchs and kleptocrats), 43% still made the association.



As younger respondents were more likely to associate politicians with economic crime, it is unsurprising that MRP analysis reveals the constituencies where the highest proportion of residents made this association are overwhelmingly urban, including Brighton Pavilion (1st), Salford (2nd), and Bristol Central (8th). Of the 100 seats where the highest proportion of constituents associated politicians with economic crime, none are designated as rural by the Office for National Statistics  – one in five (22) are found in London.


It is notable that in Scotland, where former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was recently arrested, respondents were not necessarily more likely to make this association. Even in individual constituencies where a representative has been directly implicated in corruption, such as Blackpool South and North Shropshire, this did not seem to impact respondents’ views. This suggests that those who associate politicians with economic crime are not necessarily motivated by the specific actions of their elected representative.




We asked respondents to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree that “politicians in the UK put important issues (national and local) before their own personal interests”. Although there is some evidence of a belief in the integrity of politicians (one third agreed), 42% disagreed and one in five (20%) expressed a neutral view. 


Those intending to vote for a smaller party were more likely to disagree than those intending to vote either Labour, Liberal Democrat, or Conservative. Undecided voters were also much more likely to disagree, suggesting that the distrust in politicians to put the national interest first could be encouraging some to vote for smaller parties.



Trust in politicians to put their own interests aside is also a differentiator between those who voted Conservative in 2019 and those who currently intend to vote for the party. Many of those who placed their trust in the party in 2019 do not believe politicians put important issues before their personal interests.



Two thirds (66%) of people believe UK politics is becoming more corrupt. Just 8% think it is becoming less corrupt, and a fifth neither more nor less corrupt (21%). Older respondents, who are the most likely to think politicians still act with integrity, also overwhelmingly think UK politics is becoming more corrupt. Although they do not perceive the current extent of corruption to be as bad as younger respondents, they are more likely to believe the situation is worsening. 


Those planning to vote Conservative at the next election were less likely to think politics is becoming more corrupt than other voters (52% vs. 66% sample average). However, almost two-thirds (63%) of those who voted Conservative in 2019 think it is becoming more corrupt.



The constituencies where the highest proportion of residents think UK politics is becoming more corrupt are found in the South West, Wales, and North West. Lib Dem voters are 19% more likely to think UK politics is becoming more corrupt than Conservative voters, and in the 20 constituencies where the highest proportion of residents think politics is becoming more corrupt, we find several Conservative held seats in which we expect the Liberal Democrats to threaten at the next election. Conservative-Lib Dem marginals in the top 20 include Cheadle (7th) , North Devon (8th), West Dorset (11th), Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe (17th), and Lewes (19th).



Four in five respondents thought either some (53%) or all (27%) of the main political parties are corrupt. Depending on how respondents understood ‘main’, this could mean they only considered one of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, or Labour to be corrupt, which might explain why the view that all main parties are corrupt is more widely held among those who do not intend to vote for these parties. Of those with an expressed voting intention, undecided voters (35%), Green voters (34%), and voters for other smaller parties (34%) were most likely to think that all the main parties are corrupt. Similar levels of those intending to vote Labour (21%) and Conservative (24%) believe this, although those intending to vote Labour are +16% more likely to say ‘some’ of the main parties are corrupt and untrustworthy.



There was, however, a surprisingly relaxed attitude towards political parties accepting dubious donations. Although a majority (51%) said they would be less likely to vote for a political party which accepted donations from individuals who have amassed their wealth via economic crime, a fifth reported it made them no more nor less likely (21%). Given politicians were so strongly associated with economic crime, accepting such donations may be viewed as the norm.


This appears to be the case with younger respondents, where despite associating politicians with economic crime most closely, they were least likely to report that such donations would make them less likely to vote for a party. Alongside this age relationship, however, we see Conservative voters are the most ambivalent to dubious donations. Given this polling shows just 19% of those aged 18-34 intend to vote Conservative at the next election, compared to 43% of those aged 65+, it appears that those expressing the intention to vote Conservative are somewhat more relaxed about such donations than other voters.



To understand how political corruption might affect respondents’ voting intentions, we asked how likely the issue is to affect their vote. While questions which isolate an issue in this way often lead respondents to overstate the impact it has on their voting intentions, one in four (28%) said they were unsure whether it would have an effect and a further 14% reported the issue was unlikely to affect their vote. Although this leaves a majority (58%) whose voting intentions will likely be affected by the issue, it appears political corruption lacks salience to a sizeable minority from an electoral perspective. Older respondents, who displayed the strongest feelings about corruption in other questions, are not the most likely to have it affect their voting intention. In line with findings elsewhere, however, younger respondents were the least likely to have the issue affect their choice at the ballot box.


Those intending to vote Conservative are far less swayed by political corruption, with 46% saying it is likely to affect their vote compared to 66% of those intending to vote Labour and 68% of those intending to vote Liberal Democrat. They are also most likely to be unsure (36%) whether it will have an effect, a figure which is +15% higher than Lib Dem voters and +11% higher than Labour voters.



Given that 80% of the population think at least some political parties are corrupt, and politicians are the profession most associated with economic crime, it may be that voters do not think political corruption will be addressed irrespective of who wins the election. Ultimately the public view politicians as either the perpetrators or beneficiaries of economic crime and corruption – not those working to prevent it.


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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