Who do BAME Britons trust when it comes to COVID-19?

Tanya AbrahamAssociate Director of Political and Social Research
March 17, 2021, 6:12 PM UTC

While healthcare professionals are widely trusted, the government is not

Following concern over the lower uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine among ethnic minority groups in Britain, a new YouGov survey of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) adults shows who this group trust when it comes to the pandemic.

The vast majority of those of an ethnic minority background in Britain say they trust the NHS (82%), family doctors (77%) and scientists (76%) when it comes to tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

Whilst the NHS is by far the most trusted group overall, trust levels do vary between ethnicities. Seven in ten of those with Pakistani heritage have confidence in the NHS (70%) compared to 89% of Bangladeshi Britons and 81% of those from Indian backgrounds.

Meanwhile, trust in scientists ranges from 66% amongst Pakistanis to 88% of those with mixed ethnicity.

Politicians, however, do not fare well. Overall, only a third trust their local MP (35%) or senior Whitehall civil servants (31%) and among MPs in general, just 27% of BAME Britons express trust.

Those of Bangladeshi heritage are more likely to trust MPs (44%) than other ethnic minorities (ranging from 22% of those of mixed ethnicities to 27% of Black adults).

When it comes to the media and the issue of coronavirus, half (50%) trust BBC News journalists, while there is a split in opinion towards journalists on upmarket newspapers (41% trust, 45% don’t trust). Journalists from mid-market (20%) and red-top tabloid newspapers (18%) are even less trusted.

This is the largest difference that exists between adults from ethnic minority backgrounds and adults in Britain as a whole. Trust in upmarket newspapers is 13% higher among the BAME community; 11% higher for each BBC and tabloids; and 8% higher for mid-market newspapers.

Again, trust levels do vary amongst the ethnic minority population with 28% of Bangladeshis trusting red-top newspapers compared to 18% of Black respondents.

Conversely, BAME Britons are slightly less trusting of scientists (9pts lower), the NHS (5pts lower) and doctors (4pts) than Britons as a whole.

Two in three BAME Britons lack confidence in Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock’s handling of COVID-19

Looking at specific political figures, it appears that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock do not provide much assurance amongst BAME Britons. Around a quarter say they are confident in their decisions (27% Johnson; 23% Hancock), whilst two in three are not confident (68% Johnson; 66% Hancock). Chancellor Rishi Sunak fares slightly better, being trusted by 39%, but overall still suffers from a lack of confidence amongst 48%.

On balance, the officials who regularly appear alongside senior politicians during coronavirus updates – Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – are viewed more favourably. Approaching half (47%) have confidence in Whitty and 41% think the same about Vallance (the difference between the two being down to greater public awareness of Whitty rather than lesser confidence in Vallance).

When asked about the government’s current handling of the crisis, two in three (62%) BAME Britons think the government are currently managing it badly. Just a third think it is being handled well (33%).

It should be noted that fieldwork for this study was conducted before Monday’s announcement regarding the ‘roadmap’ for easing Covid restrictions.

A separate poll of all Britons which was conducted after the announcement yields slightly more favourable results for those figures we asked about, with around one in three having some confidence in Boris Johnson (37%) and Matt Hancock (30%). Chris Whitty is also viewed more positively with over half (56%) having confidence in his decision-making.

See the full results here