The coronavirus pandemic has given governments a surge in popularity. Experts speak of a “rally round the flag” effect taking place in most countries, as citizens put aside political differences and look to their governments for leadership through the crisis.

However, these soaring approval ratings are something new. Across Europe, for example, most politicians have long been treated with suspicion. According to Eurobarometer polling, the percentage of EU citizens who say they trust their national government and parliament has been trending upwards in recent years, but has nevertheless spent most of the 2010s below 30%.

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Uloisius, who thinks trust is key to the functioning of our political system but adds that he really distrusts most politicians today. How common is his attitude?

To get a reaction, we spoke to Isabell Hoffmann from the Bertelsmann Stiftung. She is an expert on democracy and legitimacy in the European Union, and runs projects looking at the opinions of European citizens. How would she respond to Uloisius’ comment?

People don’t trust politicians. For many years now, politicians have been one of the least-trusted professional groups. Levels of trust vary across countries, but generally the picture is the same. I find it problematic that there are currently not only popular misunderstandings and contradictions regarding politicians, but also about the political process itself.

If politicians make politics professionally in the institutions, they go into great technical detail, debates can become less accessible, even if this is necessary. Technical ‘translation difficulties’ can arise if the details are to be made understandable to a broad audience. This is a real art in politics, which not everyone masters, but which is very important.

The second problem is about understanding of the political process. Do I know how difficult it is to find a compromise in democratic institutions? It is not about decisions being made from above, out of touch from ordinary people. Who has experience these days of such decision-making processes, or even has had to organise them themselves? Fewer and fewer people are involved in organisations such as political parties, unions or sports clubs. Therefore, there is no understanding of political process. But that is necessary in order to have trust.

When it comes to politics, more people should be involved (as they once were) so that they understand the political process.

Do you trust politicians? If not, how can politicians regain your trust? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) Kasia Bialasiewicz; Portrait (c) Bertelsmann Stiftung


27 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    A S AL NADABI

    Politicians are the people who run the country and draw its policies and external ties. It’s widespread that politicians ain’t trustworthy as they have hidden facts from the citizens and always trying to manipulate people thoughts. Maybe some people would suggest that if they give the truth to the people they would expose many classified files related to the state. I believe that telling the truth and be a straight forward with their audiences would modify their trust to another level where the people gonna trust them.

  2. avatar
    Florin

    The day I see the elected ones institutions free of lobbyists and interest groups I will consider trust.

  3. avatar
    Julia

    A good politician is one who obeys the banks and is too scared to speak their authentic truth by questioning, voicing doubts and raising suspicions–just not good for the people they are supposed to be serving.

  4. avatar
    Fernandinho

    Just look around and think that in most cases, with rare exceptions politicians become politicians not to represent the people. But to represent their own interests lobbies and large enterprises which pay them. This creates a vicious circle of servilism, corruption and conflicts of interests that would not be tolerated elsewhere. Never in history we have had so many politicians who have no qualifications, studies or skills that are needed to become one. Would you trust a doctor who never studied to become one? We are just their puppets. Pissing above us but telling us its rain.

  5. avatar
    Neil

    Malta go out of eu pls I hate u European Union

  6. avatar
    Gabor

    By default politicians are trained to avoid telling truth, it is their job to sell sh*t in a nice wrapper, so how on Earth can anyone trust them? Politics is nothing, but a big show for people who prefer to live in a world of illusions.

  7. avatar
    Catherine Benning

    Do you trust politicians?

    How can politicians be trusted when they collectively destroyed the culture of the country they said they were going to support and defend? Collectively they hid their intense detestation of the people and heritage of those they pretended they were part of as well as admired and revered.

    https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/what-is-the-problem

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzoCprNaqlk

    How could any democratic people trust such loathsome betrayers of their social cohesion and sense of collective unity. Remember Gordon Brown calling the old woman a bigot who complained of the dramatic and terrifying changes to her neighbourhood and her safety as a result of it.

    How could anyone trust such dishonourable individuals.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP8X3VRvaR4

  8. avatar
    UknownWarrior

    How should we trust Politicians? In my country they abuse the Euro funds to build private houses for them. In Bulgaria nobody trusts the Politicians. Are the EU politicians any better?

  9. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    “Trust or not to trust”?

    A truthful answer would take too long using the lobbying realm of “The Friends of Europe” think tank. It is but one of 11,646 groups listed- “thinking” for us. The estimate is much higher. Are European folks all dummies? Or- is there so much surplus money lying in the corridors of power?

    https://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/consultation/displaylobbyist.do?id=99436366768-45#scrollNav-13

    Please read how corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making:
    https://euobserver.com/institutional/147637

    Browse through LF- Lobby Facts.eu: https://lobbyfacts.eu/
    “WhatsApp” or What’s the problem?

    https://www.alter-eu.org/what-is-the-problem

    Headcount: 705 official EP Members vs. 11,646 listed and 25,000-30,000 estimated lobbyists in total clogging the corridors of Brussels- leaving no room for real & traditional democracy.

    It is a travesty to traditional direct democracy, by turning the EU concept upside down and into a preferential club for the ~ estimated 30,000 interest groups.

    What would a founder like Dr. Konrad Adenauer aka “Mr. No experiments” say if still alive? In remembrance of his words:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90EVIH4KZs
    A: Not to trust! Or- become a lobbyist?

    • avatar
      Jimmy

      Are they politicians? :p

  10. avatar
    Yannick

    Mm, its difficult, but some countries do better than others. I think the key is more democracy, not less. More accountability means more direct democracy and less opportunity for decisions to be made serving special interests. Industry lobbies seem to be a problem, as we saw with DieselGate and pretty much any attempt to reign in pollution from air or car or freight industries. Then I think we also need a long term perspective, because direct democracy can also be too concerned with the here and now, and therefore we need more citizen assemblies for key complex and long term topics, like they just did in France for the climate.

  11. avatar
    Hugo

    I trust myself. I trust politicians when they are transparent, but the ones I currently see governing are political. They are only interested in votes and no in the future and welfare of people.

    • avatar
      Ana

      In Portugal, Hugo, now? I think you’ve misjudged the opportunity for your criticism… Who would want to be in government under the current circumstances? It is quite clear that there is genuine commitment to the common good that is public health and to a right that is work. Of course, democracy is always possible to do better but I do not think that the people in government in the current crisis deserve the severeness of their comment.

  12. avatar
    Tony

    Politicians are in it for their own profit. Not one cares about the wellbeing of the citizens. Especially those politicians sitting in the EU. The dumbest most corrupt politicians ever.

    • avatar
      Yannick

      This is a blanket statement. It’s like saying “all people are bad”. It is true that things can evolve in this way under certain conditions. But it is not necessarily true everywhere and all the time.The key is to find the conditions under which politicians concern themselves with the future and welfare of the whole society. Countries like Denmark or Switzerland are doing quite well in that respect, countries like Hungary perhaps less so nowadays, but frankly, for having travelled and lived in many places, your blanket mistrust of politicians in Europe is misplaced. Here we have more civilised and competent politicians than many other countries.Try Brazil just for fun..

    • avatar
      Tony

      Well, I speak of what I know. In my country they are garbage. In the EU, 90% of parliament and 100% of the commission are garbage as well. Here in the USA, more of the same. So no, it’s not a blanket statement. Of course there are the few exceptions. But few.

  13. avatar
    Maria

    I don’t trust politicians. They have no values, no moral, no education, and they do things for their own good. They dont provide public service.

  14. avatar
    Filipe

    Politicians are like everybody else. Some are trustworthy, some are not.

  15. avatar
    Rick

    Trust? One must inspect what they expect. If voters aren’t checking on what their representatives do or don’t do they’re no better than Quality Control official that allows substandard work or products pass as meeting the standard.

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