Crime and corruption

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
January 19, 2011, 2:49 AM GMT+0

The British public is split over whether undercover reporters should have secretly recorded Liberal Democrat MPs criticising the Government, but many agree on the certain situations in which ‘misrepresentation’ and ‘subterfuge’ by journalists would be acceptable.

  • 48% of Brits say that, in the specific case reported recently in which several Liberal Democrat MPs were secretly recorded criticising the Coalition, journalists were right to use undercover methods
  • However, a very similar 41% say that the journalists were wrong, making neither viewpoint the majority view

Despite this, however, Brits are very clear about the situations in which they would consider such subterfuge acceptable, with suspected corruption and law-breaking top of the list.

  • 72% say that secret methods could be used to investigate politicians who are corrupt or breaking the law
  • 70% agree when it comes to investigating corporate corruption
  • 68% say consumer investigations, such as those looking into dodgy builders or salesmen, are acceptable cases in which to use such methods
  • 61% think that journalists can use secret methods when investigating celebrities who are corrupt or breaking the law

Affairs and arguments

Less acceptable were cases involving ordinary people breaking the law, companies behaving unethically (but not illegally), or any investigation involving individuals’ love affairs or personal disagreements.

  • 19% would support the use of ‘misrepresentative’ methods in investigations involving political disagreements between politicians
  • 10% would support such techniques in investigating politicians’ love affairs
  • And just 8% would support ‘subterfuge’ when it comes to celebrities’ love affairs

The Press Complaints Commission code for editors states that ‘engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge’ can only be justified when it is in ‘the public interest’.

See the survey details and full results