ALMOST 60 per cent of people have little or no faith in the leaders of the post-1997 Special Administrative Region (SAR) government, a survey has found. And about two-thirds do not think there are any trustworthy political leaders. The poll also found the public were sceptical of elected politicians and ambivalent about whether direct elections produced more trustworthy leaders. Professor Lau Siu-kai, who conducted the survey, said the survey showed people had declining trust in political institutions and leaders during the transition. The power of the British authorities was waning and the legitimacy of the incoming Chinese authorities had yet to be established. The poll also showed people had exceptionally high moral expectations of political leaders, but there was a dearth of such leaders. Since 1986, the Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, of which Professor Lau is associate director, has been conducting surveys on political attitudes as part of a social indicators proj-ect. In the latest survey, the respondents were asked to estimate their level of trust in the SAR government. Only seven per cent said they had 'trust' or 'great trust' in the future leaders. Those who had 'little' trust in the future leaders accounted for 14.2 per cent while 8.8 per cent said they had 'very little' trust. Most people were non-committal with 36.3 per cent saying 'so so [average]' and 29.2 per cent 'don't know'. Professor Lau said the response 'so so' showed the respondents had an opinion, but were torn between giving an affirmative or negative answer. About 64.5 per cent said they had no trustworthy political leaders in mind, compared with 69.9 per cent in 1988, 69 per cent in 1989 and 71.6 per cent in 1991. Only 14 per cent said they had found trustworthy political leaders, compared with 16.2 per cent in 1988, 9.5 per cent in 1989 and 12.7 per cent in 1991. Moreover, about 40 per cent of respondents said they did not think trustworthy political leaders would emerge before 1997, compared with 16.9 per cent who thought they would. About 38.7 per cent said they did not know or had no opinion on the subject. Despite the recent proliferation of political groups the survey found most people had little faith in them. More than half (56.4 per cent) said they had no trusted political groups in their mind. Only 17.2 per cent said there were groups they could trust, while 21 per cent said they did not know. On whether the election of legislative councillors could produce more trustworthy political leaders, the number of respondents replying 'yes' and 'no' were the same at 35.3 per cent each. As many as 23.8 per cent said they did not know, while 5.6 per cent did not give an answer. The survey also revealed a low level of trust in elected politicians. About 40.9 per cent said they agreed and 4.4 per cent strongly agreed with the statement that 'elected councillors in Hong Kong quickly become detached from the public'. The number who disagreed and strongly disagreed were 19 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively. On the statement 'political parties in Hong Kong are interested in getting people's votes, but do not care about their opinion', about 45 per cent and five per cent respectively said they agreed and strongly agreed with it. Only 17 per cent said they strongly disagreed or agreed and 14.5 per cent were non-committal.