More than four in 10 people are concerned about the amount that charities spend on executive pay, according to new research from the think tank New Philanthropy Capital.
The research organisation Ipsos Mori asked 1,035 adults in January to pick from a list of 11 options called "What are charities doing wrong?"
From the list, which included the options "don’t know" and "none of the above", 42 per cent of respondents chose executive pay, making it the most popular answer.
The results, published today by NPC, also show that 36 per cent of respondents said charities were not transparent enough about how they spent their money, and 29 per cent said charities spent too much abroad.
Twenty-nine per cent thought charities put too much pressure on people to donate, and 26 per cent said charities spent too much on running costs.
But only 11 per cent of respondents listed charity salaries in general as a concern, which NPC said suggested the public was more concerned with executive pay.
Respondents were also asked how much they thought a charity chief executive should be paid. Forty-two per cent of those surveyed thought charity chief executives should earn less than an MP's salary of £66,000; 16 per cent thought they should not be paid at all.
Twenty-eight per cent said they should be paid the same as an MP and 7 per cent said they should be paid more.
Thirty-two per cent of respondents said their attitude towards charities had become more positive over the past three years; 23 per cent that said it had become more negative.
NPC said it carried out the research to gauge the impact of negative media coverage and comments by MPs on issues such as chief executive pay and the Cup Trust.
It warned charities not to be complacent and to find ways to address the public’s concerns about the sector.
"Not all charities are perfect and the sector must be open about this, but many of the comments made about the sector are unfair and misleading," said Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC. "If the sector can work together, it will be in a stronger position to withstand any erosion of trust it might yet suffer should the attacks by the press and MPs continue."