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The Trust Fund

Armed forces'Trust up by 12%' sounds like the kind of headline that was declaimed by Chris Morris in the spoof news programme The Day Today. But it is also a finding suggested by a survey by the Charity Awareness Monitor.

The 'Trust in Public Bodies' survey, repeated four times since 2003, measures trust in British institutions. One thousand correspondents were asked how much they trusted each of 18 groups or bodies, including the royal family, the NHS and charities.

Encamped in unassailable first place are the armed forces, with an unwavering 75-77% people saying they have 'quite a lot' or 'a great deal' of trust in them. No one else averages so much as 60%.

The NHS, charities (in general), schools and the police all do well, and have climbed steadily up the ratings over five years. The position of the BBC has fluctuated wildly, rising and stumbling between its high-profile controversies.

The Church languishes in the middle ranks, having fallen behind the royal family, and averaging a score of about one-third.

The most spectacular fall is, predictably, the banks', from 41% in 2003 to 17% in the latest survey, in November 2008. This puts it behind the government, whose trust rating rose in the same period from an appalling 11% to a merely paltry 19%.

But even the banks are still four points ahead of the least trusted institution in Britain: insurance companies.

Overall, two results are striking. The uhappy one is how little, apparently, the British trust public instutions. Fewer than half have the trust of more than 40% of us. The happier result is that that figure seems to be steadily climbing. 37.5% was the average score in 2003, now it's 42%. Britain: now with 12% more trust!