In the Global Corruption Barometer 2013, released this week, South Africa was among 36 countries in which the police was seen as the most corrupt institution.
About 83% of South Africans believed that police were corrupt. Thirty-six percent admitted to having paid bribes to police.
An average of 53% of people sampled during the surveyed globally said they had paid a bribe to police.
The survey was conducted among 114 000 people in 107 countries. It showed corruption was widespread.
In SA, 1 000 people from urban areas were interviewed.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said the findings confirmed that the increase in corruption was "not a mere perception".
"We solicit public experiences of corruption and we are getting a significant number of reports of bribery and other acts of corruption, especially from poor communities," Lewis said.
He said Corruption Watch had received over 4 200 complaints on corruption and related matters since its launch in January 2012.
He said half of these focused on the abuse of public power and resources, by both the private and public sectors.
Around the world, the survey showed that 27% of the respondents had paid a bribe when accessing public services in the last 12 months, revealing no improvement from previous surveys.
Nearly nine out of 10 people surveyed said they would act against corruption, and two-thirds of those who were asked to pay a bribe had refused.
Of the 107 countries, 20 countries viewed the judiciary as the most corrupt. In these countries an average of 30% of the people who had come in contact with the judicial system had been asked to pay a bribe.
About 54% of the people surveyed globally considered their government to be ineffective in fighting corruption.
This lack of confidence in government efforts had grown compared to people's views in the 2010/2011 survey, where 47% of people felt their government was ineffective in fighting corruption.
However, two in three people (67%) around the globe believed ordinary people could make a difference in the fight against corruption.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of the people around the world thought that personal contacts were important to get things done in the public sector.
This went up to 80% in Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malawi, Morocco, and Russia.