Trust is an essential element in human interaction for individuals, institutions and governments. But how is it earned? And why is it so important to the UK’s future?
The Value of Trust report, based on statistical analysis of data from a British Council survey of almost 20,000 18 to 34 year olds in all G20 countries, asks these questions. The British Council’s Alice Campbell-Cree, who wrote the report, discusses some of its findings.
What does the Value of Trust report consider?
The report looks at the relationship between people’s values and their trust in the UK, and how their trust in the UK affects people's intentions to work with the four countries of the UK in the future. That could include trading or doing business with, or studying in the UK. It also looks at the relationship between experience of cultural relations with the UK – the kind of work the British Council does – and the extent to which people trust the UK.
And what does the analysis show?
There is a connection between how much people trust the UK, and their perception of the country's values. Seventy-six per cent of people who said the UK upholds the values which they consider important said they trusted the UK, while only 10 per cent of the same people said they distrusted the country.
The values or qualities which are most important in earning trust for the UK are: openness, contribution to development in poorer countries, a free justice system, world-leading arts and culture, working constructively with other governments, and treating people fairly.
We found that people who trust the UK are roughly twice as likely to want to trade, do business with or study in the UK as those who distrust the UK. Twenty-one per cent of people who said they trust the UK said they intend to study in the country, compared to 12 per cent who said they distrust the UK.
We also found that people who had been involved in a cultural relations activity with the UK (participated in a school exchange, educational or volunteer programme with the UK, attended a UK arts or cultural event or studied English outside of school) said they trusted the UK more. Seventy-five per cent of people who had participated in a UK cultural relations activity with the British Council said they trusted the UK, whereas only 49 per cent of people who had not participated in a UK cultural relations activity said the same.
Why is this important?
As the UK prepares to exit the European Union, our economy and our ability to shape the international agenda will depend even more on our relationships with other countries.
Our finding that trust plays an important role in whether people intend to do business or trade with the UK shows that international trust will be important to the UK’s economy. Our finding that qualities such as openness, contribution to development in poorer countries, and world-leading arts and culture are strongly associated with levels of trust in the UK indicates which qualities are most important to the UK being trusted. And our finding that cultural relations engagement is associated with higher levels of trust in the UK means we understand some of the ways in which organisations like the British Council will be important to the UK’s future influence and prosperity in the future.