On 20 May 2021, an inquiry into journalist Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana concluded that the BBC, by covering up Bashir’s use of deceitful tactics to secure the interview, ‘fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark.’ In the wake of the inquiry’s release, the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that an overwhelming 88% of Britons say they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ aware of the investigation, and of these respondents, 47% say the investigation has decreased their trust in the BBC.
In a poll one week earlier, before the inquiry’s official findings were published, we found just 28% of those familiar with the investigation said it had decreased their trust in the BBC, meaning there has been a 19-point increase in distrust over the span of one week. Meanwhile, the proportion of respondents who say the investigation has not impacted their trust in the BBC has decreased from 44% on 19 May to 34% on 26 May. Our research therefore reveals the significant impact that the release of Lord Dyson’s inquiry into the Bashir interview has had on the British public and its trust in its public broadcasting company.
In our latest poll, we find that older respondents are the most likely to have seen their trust in the BBC decreased as a result of the inquiry, with 58% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 55% of those aged 65 and over expressing this view. Pluralities of all other age groups also say the investigation has decreased their trust in the BBC with the exception of 18-to-24-year-olds, who are split between saying the inquiry has decreased (33%) or not impacted (34%) their trust.
A majority (55%) of respondents who voted for the Conservative Party in 2019 also say their trust in the BBC has decreased, compared to 39% of 2019 Labour voters, which is likely related to the average age of the two parties’ voters.
Even in light of the inquiry’s scathing conclusions, however, a plurality (38%) of Britons say they have a favourable view of the BBC—an opinion particularly held by 2019 Labour voters (47%). That being said, a considerable 30% of respondents say their view of the BBC is neither favourable nor unfavourable, and 29% say their view is unfavourable.
Those with an unfavourable view of the BBC include a plurality (41%) of respondents aged 65 and over and a slight plurality of 2019 Conservative voters (37%).
In the immediate aftermath of Lord Dyson’s inquiry into Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana, it appears as though the investigation has had a notable impact on Britons. As a publicly-funded corporation, it is critical that the BBC has the trust of the British public, but our research finds that this trust has been diminished, while favourable views of the BBC are by no means widespread or secure—particularly among Conservative voters and older Britons.