Public Attitudes Research
The most recent public attitudes research commissioned by GSOC was at the end of 2015. It aimed to measure any change in public opinion since the last piece of independent research, undertaken two years previously. It was positive that seven in ten Irish adults surveyed say that the Garda Ombudsman provides an important service and the majority believe that, if they had a problem, they would be treated fairly if they went to the Garda Ombudsman. It is of concern, however, that only half of the population surveyed express confidence in the Garda Ombudsman’s ability to resolve problems. GSOC believes that this indicates a need to move towards a more resolution-focused approach. The system provided for by the current legislation favours formal criminal or disciplinary investigations. In such investigations, the possible outcomes of making a complaint to a GSOC are all related to whether a criminal offence, or breach of the Garda Síochána Discipline Regulations, can be proven or not. The Ombudsman Commission has put suggested reforms before the Minister and Department of Justice and Equality.
Fieldwork for the survey was conducted via the Behaviour & Attitudes Face to Face Omnibus vehicle (Barometer) over the period 15 – 25 January, 2016. It was compared with a previous benchmark survey, carried out by telephone Omnibus (TeleBarometer) from 3 - 15 December 2013. Where relevant, comparisons are shown between the two survey periods.
1,007 adults were interviewed. Interviewing was conducted across 63 separate sampling points per survey. Within each sampling point, respondents were selected on the basis of quota controls relating to gender, age and social class within region – to ensure that the resultant sample is a microcosm of the national adult population. Quota controls were based on the most recent Census statistics of the national population.
- Over eight in ten Irish adults say they have heard of the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC).
- It is generally assumed that the role of the Garda Ombudsman is to investigate complaints about the Gardaí (61% of adults).
- Seven in ten adults believe that the Garda Ombudsman provides an important service.
- Seven in ten of those expressing an opinion are aware that the Garda Ombudsman is independent, while three in ten think it is part of the Garda Síochána.
- Six in ten adults believe that, if they had a problem, they would be treated fairly if they went to the Garda Ombudsman.
- Less than half of the population is confident of the ability of the Garda Ombudsman to resolve problems.
- But all in all, people are positive about the Garda Ombudsman, and the work that it conducts. In response to all statements, respondents expressed higher levels of positivity than two years ago. This was most notable in relation to GSOC making gardaí more accountable for their actions, where 83% agreed or strongly agreed.
- Confidence in the Garda Síochána appears to be improving, according to our research, with highest levels of confidence in the force’s ability to provide a courteous service, investigate crimes and respond effectively to requests for assistance.
- The last two years have also seen satisfaction with garda interactions increase.
The public attitudes research is available to download here.