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Majority of MPs and public trust charities – new research

18 September 2015

The majority of people trust charities and believe those providing public services must be spared from government spending cuts, new polling shows.

Research released by the Charities Aid Foundation today shows three in five people want government to protect charities’ funding (60%) and believe it is important for charities to highlight if they believe government policies will negatively affect people (63%).

Today’s report – Under the Microscope: Examining the future of charities in Britain – compares the views of MPs and UK public on charities. It is based on ComRes polling of a representative sample of 150 MPs and 2,071 UK adults.

The research, carried out over the summer, gives the first full insight into the impact of recent high profile fundraising controversies on how parliamentarians and the public view charities.

It reveals that most people across the UK (57%) agree charities are trustworthy and act in the public interest. While levels of public trust remain high, the result suggests trust has fallen since last year when a similar poll by the Charity Commission found 71% trusted charities.

With the Chancellor due to announce significant reductions in public spending in his Spending Review this November, the majority of the public (60%) agree that money given to charities by government to run public services should not be a focus for spending cuts. MPs (45%) are less likely to agree. Significantly, only 23% of Conservative MPs agree that charities should be protected, compared to 65% of Labour MPs.

Most people (63%) also agree that charities should speak out where they think government policy will have a negative impact on people. While most Conservative and Labour voters are united on this issue, there is significant disagreement between MPs of the respective parties. 93% of Labour MPs agree, compared with only 33% of Conservative MPs.

Other key findings from the report show that:

  • MPs are more likely than the public to view charities positively. 73% of MPs said they agreed charities were trustworthy and act in the public interest, compared to 57% of UK adults and 86% of MPs that charities help create a more vibrant community life, while only half (50%) of UK adults say the same.
  • Two thirds of Conservative MPs agreed it was important for government to expand the role of charities in the delivery of public services (65%). By contrast, 16% of Labour MPs and 12% of the public thought that should be one of the government’s priorities.
  • The public and MPs are in agreement that one of the biggest priorities for government is to find a way to encourage young people to volunteer and take social action.
  • The new intake of MPs elected in 2015 are less likely than other MPs to agree that charities are sufficiently on the political agenda (43% v 75%).

CAF Chief Executive John Low said:

“It's humbling that charities command such support from public and politicians alike. MPs overwhelmingly see charities as having an important role to play in Britain, making our communities more vibrant and supporting public services.

“People across the UK consistently show their support for charities by being among the most generous givers in the world. They strongly believe that charities need the freedom to stand up for people negatively affected by government policy and that, where charities help provide services, they must be properly funded.

“Amid controversy about fundraising, charities must act together to ensure they continue to earn and rebuild public trust. But at the same time, we need to protect their vital role in society.  Charities have seen government funding to deliver public services cut, while at the same time demand for their support has increased.

“Politicians work closely with charities and see first-hand the difference they make. It will be vital that this makes its mark on government policy. If charities bear the brunt of savings not only would it be bad for most people’s quality of life, but it would also damage the public purse, which benefits hugely from the work of volunteers and not-for-profit organisations.”

NOTES

1 For a copy of the full report ‘Under the Microscope – Examining the future of charities in Britain’ – contact sward@cafonline.org

2 The Charities Aid Foundation helps people and businesses give to the causes they care about and provides financial services to support charities.

3 ComRes interviewed 2,071 UK adults online between 12th and 14th June 2015. Data was weighted to be representative of all UK adults aged 18+. ComRes also interviewed 150 Members of Parliament online and by self-completion paper questionnaire between 21st May and 3rd July 2015. Data was weighted by Party, region and length of service to be representative of the House of Commons. Data tables are available at www.ComRes.co.uk. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

4 The Charity Commission’s 2014 Public Trust and Confidence in Charities report found 71% agreed that charities are trustworthy and act in the public interest. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-trust-and-confidence-in-charities-rs31. This compares with 57% who agreed with the same question in the CAF-commissioned ComRes survey.

ENDS

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