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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rebuilding trust

A lecture in the Assembly by Professor Richard Tait of the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University was apparently packed out and for once the attraction was not the free lunch. Professor Tait was lecturing on Politicians, the Media and the Public. He highlighted the falling turnout at National elections and the meltdown of public trust. A survey of attitudes to various professions revealed that 91% of people trust doctors to tell the truth and 85% trust teachers. The figures for TV newsreaders is 71%, for Civil Servants, 45%, Business leaders and Government Ministers rate 20% each whilst politicians generally score 19%. Journalists are only trusted by 13% of those asked. A similar survey of institutions found 71% trusting the Post Office, 53% schools, 22% the Civil Service and only 13% trusting the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. In 1974 39% of those asked believed that the Government of the day would put the national good above party gain. In 2002 that figure had dropped to 16%.

The conclusion is clear - non-participation in our democratic structures is founded on cynicism not apathy. That cynicism is underlined by a mistrust of the messages that are being fed to people and of the media that is used for communication. One of the solutions suggested was using more direct methods to get the message across. The use of the internet is one medium through which that can be achieved. In this context it is worth noting that, although the Welsh Assembly Government has promoted the sort of openness that people want to see from their government, their website remains as impenetratable as ever.

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