Public trust in members of the clergy has fallen substantially over the past 30 years, according to a poll by Ipsos MORI, although priests still enjoy relatively high trust compared to other professions.A survey of 998 British adults found that 65 per cent say they trust priests and clergy to tell the truth – down 20 per cent from 1983, and down four since last year.
The figures mean that clergy are the 10th most trusted profession in Britain, ranking below television newsreaders, weather forecasters, nurses and doctors.
Despite the drop, more people still say they trust clergy than do not. Thirty per cent said they do not trust members of the clergy to tell the truth, giving them a net approval rating of 35 per cent.
Among all demographic groups, clergy also retain a higher level of trust than distrust, achieving particularly high ratings among the over-65s (73 per cent), people in the highest social grades (75 per cent), people with degrees (69 per cent), and people in rural areas (70 per cent).
Young people born in 1996 or later are also much more likely to trust the clergy than those born between 1980 and 1995. Sixty-six per cent of the younger group say they trust priests and clergy, compared to just 54 per cent of the older group.
Priests also still rank far above politicians, who only score 17 per cent, and journalists, who have 27 per cent. By contrast, 80 per cent of respondents said they did not trust politicians to tell the truth, and 69 per cent said the same of journalists.
The figures come as religious observance continues to decline in Britain. In September, a survey by the National Centre for Social Research found 53 per cent of adults now describe themselves as having “no religion”, including 71 per cent of 18 to 25 year-olds.
The percentage of people with no religion has increased by 23 per cent since 1983, with a sharp rise among under-25s.
The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool commented: “Saying ‘no religion’ is not the same as a considered atheism. People’s minds, and hearts, remain open.”