OECD Survey Shows Decreasing Trust in Public Institutions Skip to content

OECD Survey Shows Decreasing Trust in Public Institutions

By Erik Pomrenke

Miðborg Reykjavíkur - tekið úr byggingakrana
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík City.

According to a recent OECD Trust Survey, in 2023, 36% of Icelanders reported high or moderately high trust in their national government, which is below the OECD average of 39%. This figure marks a 14 percentage point drop since 2021, the third largest decrease among OECD countries with available data.

Initiated in 2021, the OECD Survey on Drivers of Trust in Public Institutions explores the public perception of institutions and government across 30 OECD nations. The survey takes into account both day-to-day interactions with administrative systems, in addition to trust in government to make complex policy decisions. Read the full report here.

Other people trusted most, political parties trusted least

Similar to most OECD countries, Icelanders trust other people (82%) and the police (73%) more than their national government (36%). Over half of the population has high or moderately high trust in the national civil service (64%) and news media (62%). The national parliament (36%) and political parties (20%) are the least trusted institutions in Iceland.

The survey also revealed that in Iceland, people who feel excluded from the political system trust the national government 42 percentage points less than those who feel included, a smaller gap than the OECD average of 47 points. Notably, Iceland is one of three countries where women (37%) trust the national government slightly more than men (36%), unlike the OECD average where women’s trust is 7 points lower than men’s. Trust in the national government is equal among younger and older Icelanders, while across the OECD, older people’s trust is 7 points higher. Trust gaps related to education and financial concerns in Iceland mirror the OECD average.

Large gap between day-to-day institutions and government

The survey showed further that Icelanders, for the most part, trust the institutions they interact with daily, such as the civil service. For most day-to-day interactions with administration, Icelanders showed satisfaction generally higher than OECD averages. A large majority of people in Iceland (66%) with recent experience with the education system are satisfied with it, compared to 57% on average across the OECD. Additionally, 66% are satisfied with the administrative services they used, which is equal to OECD averages.

However, the general satisfaction with daily administration contrasted sharply with larger questions of policy and accountability. Indeed, the survey indicated that Iceland scores below the OECD average on nearly all indicators related to decision-making on intricate policy matters. A third of people in Iceland (34%) expect that government balances interests of current and future generations, a share that is 3 percentage points lower than the average across OECD countries (37%). Strikingly, only 20% of those surveyed found that parliament held government accountable. This is significantly lower than the OECD average of 38%.


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