Is Britain becoming more corrupt?

Many people believe, especially in comparison to the developing world, that Britain is a country in which corruption is largely absent, where business and politics are fair and clean. But is this assumption correct? Recent cases such as the major investigation into activities at the football governing body, FIFA, provide reason to believe that corruption also occurs in the developed world. In the last decade alone, several big banks have been caught manipulating borrowing rates, editors of major newspapers have stood trial for phone-hacking, scores of politicians were caught with their hand in the public purse during the expenses scandal. These examples may or may not meet with tight academic or legal definitions of corruption, but it is clear that they represent a change in the perceived moral standing of British institutions and the officials working within them. It is unclear if these recent events represent a rise in corruption, or if new transparency measures mean it is easier to spot today compared to the past (such as the Freedom of Information Act which eventually exposed MPs’ expense claims in 2009). This is not an easy topic to address empirically – all criminal activity is difficult to measure because people are reluctant to own up to it. In this short report we explore measures of attitudes (e.g. do you think corruption is acceptable?), perceptions (how corrupt do you think officials are?) and experiences (have you ever been asked for a bribe?) to determine how much corruption there is in Britain and whether it is on the rise.

Read the four-page note on corruption in Britain CSI 14: Corruption


How do levels of corruption in Britain compare to the rest of Europe? And what are the drivers of corruption in developed countries? Read our working paper on the incidence of bribery in Europe here.