The UK Statistics Authority today welcomes a report showing that public confidence in official statistics remains high, and engagement with official statistics has increased since 2018.
The Public Confidence in Official Statistics 2021 survey, conducted independently by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), found that awareness of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and its parent body the UK Statistics Authority had increased since 2018. A very high proportion of respondents trusted ONS (89% of those able to express a view) and its statistics (87%). The report also found:
- 82% of people able to express an opinion agreed that official statistics are generally accurate, up from 78% in 2018.
- 90% agreed that personal information provided to ONS would be kept confidential.
- Trust in ONS remained similarly high to 2018 and was highest of all institutions that were asked about, including the Government, the Bank of England, and the Civil Service as a whole.
With the ONS delivering the 2021 Census in England and Wales, the Coronavirus Infection Survey, and producing more detailed health statistics during the pandemic, there were increases in the proportion of people who said they had participated in and used ONS statistics:
- 78% said they had participated in an ONS survey (up from 57% in 2018)*.
- Around one in 10 (11%) reported having taken part in the Coronavirus Infection Survey**
- 44% of people said they had used ONS COVID-19 statistics. They were more commonly used than any of the other statistics asked about with the exception of the census.
In 2021, more people were aware of the UK Statistics Authority (48% of those who gave a response, up from 33% in 2018) and for the first time people were asked about its regulatory arm, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). Of those able to express a view:
- 96% agreed that it is important for there to be a body such as the Authority to speak out against the misuse of statistics.
- 94% agreed about the importance of there being a body to ensure that official statistics are produced without political interference.
- 74% of people able to express a view in 2021 agreed statistics are produced free from political interference. This is similar to 2018 (73%).
- 41% of those able to give a response had heard of the OSR.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, said:
“We have worked hard to provide fundamental insights throughout the pandemic. It’s a great reward to see people engaging with statistics more than ever, and for ONS to emerge as one of the UK’s most trusted institutions. Nine in 10 people trust the statistics we produce; similar majorities believe our statistics are useful and that we will keep their data safe.
“This is encouraging news ahead of the release of our biggest ever census later this year. We’re proud that people support our vision of statistics that serve the public good which we will continue to deliver with honesty, and free from political interference.”
Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at OSR, said:
“At the Office for Statistics Regulation our vision is simple: statistics that serve the public good. This vision can’t be achieved without understanding how the public view and use statistics – and how they feel about the organisations that produce them. This research offers valuable insights into public attitudes towards statistics, and will be very useful in furthering our own research on public good.”
* ONS estimates that 97% of households responded to Census 2021 in England and Wales, although not all of them associate it with ONS: NatCen found that only 80% of people who reported they had taken part in the census said they had heard of ONS. Further information about the Census response rate is available at https://census.gov.uk/news/97-per-cent-of-households-respond-to-census-2021
** ONS publishes information on the Coronavirus Infection Survey sample size and response rates in the technical dataset. The latest article on the cumulative incidence of the number of people who have tested positive for our COVID-19 analyses a sample of 535,116 who have completed at least one swab for the survey.
A full version of Public Confidence in Official Statistics 2021 is available on the National Centre for Social Research’s website.