In the Media

Why do women trust the police more than men?

PUBLISHED November 15, 2012

British society is in the midst of 'trust vacuum', and the last few weeks in particular have seen this degradation of faith reach crisis point in some of our major organisations and leading figures (think BBC and MPs). Our latest piece of research, about trust in institutions such as the BBC and Government, has found that women and men feel similar levels of mistrust.

However, what was surprising in our findings was the marked difference between how men and women say they trust the police.

The Kantar research revealed that 54 per cent of women trusted senior police officers to tell the truth, compared to only 45 per cent of men. So, why do women trust police more than men?

According to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (2011/12), 22.2 per cent of men were victims of crime compared with 20.4 per cent of women. And, when it comes to violent crime, men are also more likely to be a victim: 3.8 per cent of men compared with 2.1 per cent of women.

Interestingly though, women are much more likely to think about being the victims of crime. Nineteen per cent of women, compared to seven per cent of men, reported feeling worried about being a victim of violent crime. Perhaps women are more likely to trust the police because they want to, in order to feel reassured of their safety.

On the other hand, it may have something to do with the fact that women are much less likely to end up on the wrong side of the law. The prison population is completely dominated by men. The latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that the UK's total prison population is 95 per cent men - with the number of male inmates coming in at 81,981 - while the remaining five per cent equals 4,124 women.

Or, it might just be that women, more than men, are a larger part of that group who constitute the 'day people' - those who are at home and in our communities, shops and streets during the day - when the police are more visible. This makes them more exposed to the presence of the police in our community and may contribute to greater trust levels.

Whatever underpins the reason for women trusting the police more than men (it's likely a combination of all of three of these factors) - it's good news for the police. Right now, our senior police officers are among the most trusted professions in our society, beating politicians, journalists, big business leaders and senior figures at the BBC. Only judges came out on top of all those surveyed.

And after a torrid couple of years in which the police have been exposed for failing to bring to justice multiple sex offenders - with most high profile being Jimmy Savile and its inappropriate role in various parts of the phone hacking scandal - this latest vote of confidence - should be music to the 'Old Bill's' ears.

Dr Michelle Harrison is a Whitehall advisor and head of Political and Social Affairs at Kantar, a global research group owned by advertising giant, WPP.