News Corp. Phone Hacking Sees U.K. Lawmakers Regain Trust as Media Loses

Scandal Reverses Years-Long Trends for Government, Journalists

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News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal has reversed a six-year trend of falling public trust in U.K. politicians, while undoing years of improving perceptions of journalists, according to a new poll.

A survey for Nottingham University's School of Politics found just one person in 20 saying they trusted tabloid journalists to tell the truth, and a rise in those saying they trusted lawmakers, the first since 2006. It was conducted immediately after Parliament's Culture Committee called News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch and his son James in July to explain hacking at the News of the World tabloid.

The July 4 revelation that the newspaper hacked a murdered girl's voicemail forced its closure and led to high-level resignations from the company and the abandonment of its bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group. By contrast, it offered lawmakers the chance to fight back against the press after years of defending themselves over scandals including their expenses.

"Trust in journalists -- both broadsheet and tabloid -- is down by around a quarter," Nottingham academics Jonathan Rose and Cees van der Eijk wrote in an analysis of the figures. "If trust in newspaper journalists and the police has fallen, there has been a remarkable resurgence in trust for politicians. Whatever the partisan effect of the scandal, the political class as a whole appears to have benefited from it."

That's a turnaround from polling data published yesterday by the Committee on Standards in Public Life covering the years 2004 to 2010 that showed decreases in those saying they trusted elected lawmakers. That report also showed increases in the number of people saying they trusted both tabloid and broadsheet journalists to tell the truth.

"It may be that the rise in confidence in journalists is linked to their perceived role in exposing the expenses scandal," the committee wrote. The body acts as an adviser to the government. Its figures aren't directly comparable with the Nottingham study.

According to Rupert Murdoch, this lost of trust wasn't what he hoped to achieve with his newspapers. When he appeared before the committee on July 19, describing it as "the most humble day of my life," he talked about his pride in his father, the journalist Keith Murdoch, who exposed army incompetence during World War I. "He, just before he died, bought a small paper, specifically in his will saying that he was giving me the chance to do good," Murdoch said.

YouGov interviewed 2,551 adults online Nov. 15-20, 2010, for the standards committee and 2,012 adults July 15-16 for Nottingham University.

-- Bloomberg News --

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