The public trusts charities to influence government for the good of society more than it trusts lobbyists from other sectors, a poll published today has revealed.
However, the poll also revealed that less than half of those surveyed trust charities to use their influence over government policy "for the benefit of society".
The chief executives body Acevo, which commissioned YouGov to carry out the survey, asked: "To what extent, if at all, do you trust the following organisations to use this influence over government policy for the benefit of society?"
Nearly half, 49 per cent, of the 1,660 respondents said they trusted charities, with 33 per cent saying they did not trust them and 19 per cent saying they were unsure.
Other types of lobbyist did not fare as well: 28 per cent said they trusted trade unions to influence government for the benefit of society, 21 per cent said they trusted think tanks, 16 per cent said they trusted private companies and only 8 per cent said they trusted lobbying consultants.
The survey was published today to coincide with a debate on the lobbying bill in parliament.
It also asked: "How much influence, if any, do you think the following organisations have over government policy?"
Lobbying consultants were perceived to have the highest influence on government, with 68 per cent of respondents saying they wielded a "fair amount of influence".
By comparison, 68 per cent said private companies were influencing government, 53 per cent picked think tanks and 51 per cent chose unions.
Only 19 per cent of respondents thought charities exerted influence through lobbying, and 63 per cent said they had no influence.
Writing in today’s Times newspaper, Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, says lobbying by charities is perceived differently from lobbying by commercial organisations.
Under the proposed bill, he argues, Cancer Research UK might be criticised for helping the official opposition if it complained about the government dropping plans for plain cigarette packaging, but if tobacco companies lobbied government for policies that increased their profits, the public would not even be told.
Bubb says there is a deficit of trust in private companies that lobby government.
"The public trusts charities to do this – and they don’t trust lobbyists," he said. "These survey results show that the public recognise the essential role of charities in questioning government policies and speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable people in society."