Opinion on the monarchy

Posted in Social on June 1st, 2012 by Leo – Comments Off on Opinion on the monarchy

There have already been two polls on opinion about the monarchy over the last week and I’m sure there’ll be more in the coming days.

The Guardian last Thursday found a ‘surge in royalism’ despite doubts about whether Charles should take the throne.  Another in today’s Independent apparently found similar lack of excitement about Charles.

I’m away for a bit, so won’t be going through any more monarchy polls as they’re published. But from these new polls the analysis I did a few months ago looks still to hold:

1) As the Guardian poll suggests, British opinion remains firmly committed to keeping a monarchy. Perhaps it’s become even stronger since the royal wedding and the jubilee, but the idea of a republic has never appealed in recent decades.

2) Yet, this is perhaps more about hostility to the idea of Britain becoming a republic, rather than love for the monarchy. Over the late ’80s and early ’90s there was a significant shift from people thinking Britain would be worse if it lost the monarchy to people thinking it would make no difference. The last polling I’ve seen on this is 10 years old, so perhaps things have changed, but it does suggest that people no longer buy the argument that the monarchy brings benefits to the UK.

3) As both recent polls suggest, there is indeed currently a problem with the succession. Of course this could well change when – if – it comes up and ceremonialism takes over, but at the moment there are very clear doubts about what should happen next.

Indifference to the monarchy, hostility to Britain becoming a republic

Posted in Social on February 11th, 2012 by Leo – 3 Comments

In the 60 years since Elizabeth II came to the throne, Britain has become vastly less religious and less deferential. You might expect such trends to have undermined support for the continuation of an institution whose authority comes from God and superior birth – yet support for the monarchy is overwhelming.

But while there is little appetite for Britain to become a republic, attitudes to the monarchy have changed in recent years. Far fewer people now think it brings any overall benefit to Britain, and there continue to be doubts about whether Prince Charles should inherit.

Better than the alternatives

Over nearly 20 years, Ipsos MORI have been asking whether people would prefer Britain to become a republic or remain a monarchy. In that time – covering the emergence of Charles’ relationship with Camilla, the death of Diana, and Harry’s appearance in a Nazi costume – support for keeping the monarchy never dropped below 65%, compared with a high of 22% wanting a republic:

A question from YouGov adds an interesting point of comparison. In July 2003, 41% said they would support keeping the monarchy in its current state, 41% said they would only support keeping it if it modernised, and 16% opposed keeping it altogether.

At that point, MORI’s data suggest that given a straight choice between keeping or abolishing the monarchy, only about 20% would abolish it. So of the 41% who told YouGov they would keep the monarchy only if it reformed, nearly all would, if pushed, prefer to keep it than scrap it.

The growth of indifference

But this solid opposition to republicanism doesn’t equate with full-throated support for the monarchy.

Another tracking question from Ipsos MORI suggests that, since the early ‘80s, there has been a significant fall in the numbers who think that the monarchy brings an overall benefit to Britain.

In 1984, 77% thought that Britain would be worse off if the monarchy was abolished. Now, that figure is just 46%. In keeping with the continued lack of support for a republic, there has been little change in the proportion that thinks Britain would be better off without royals. Instead, the growth has come in the numbers who say it would make no difference.

While the tracking stopped in ’02, the pattern is clear: since the early ‘90s, barely more than half think that Britain would be actively worse off without a monarchy:

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Opponents of Scottish independence shouldn’t be complacent about winning

Posted in Politics, Social on January 14th, 2012 by Leo – 2 Comments

Recent polls aren’t encouraging for those hoping for Scottish independence. Only around a third say they would vote to break away, while over half say they would vote against.

But older polls suggest opponents of independence shouldn’t be complacent. There has been a great deal of volatility in opinion, which could spell trouble if the campaign goes against them.

Three polls since October last year put current support for independence in Scotland in the region of 29%-34%, with up to 54% opposed. From these, there’s little to suggest any recent trend in either direction:

Data and question wording: YouGov Jan 2012; Ipsos MORI Nov-Dec 2011

But while these numbers look very reassuring for those opposing divorce, older polls suggest a much less settled view.

UK Polling Report have gathered the results from 34 polls, conducted between 1999 and 2009, with questions on Scotland’s independence. Inevitably the question wording varies widely, so it’s difficult to use the full set to show how opinion has changed.

But five of these polls with simple questions on support for independence show clearly that there is potential for much higher support than more recent polls have found:

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Was it just the woman on the tram, or is Britain afraid of foreigners?

Posted in Social on November 28th, 2011 by Leo – 1 Comment

The appalled reaction to the racism of the woman on the Croydon tram (presumably today’s equivalent of the Clapham omnibus) suggests that such attitudes are no longer accepted in Britain. But then that reaction was expressed first and most prominently on Twitter, which is hardly representative of wider society.

Indeed it’s barely 18 months since the Mail on Sunday printed one of the most xenophobic headlines of recent years: “His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg?”.

The calculation was that voters wouldn’t support a leader who was tainted with foreignness. After all, this is the land where memories of the war are so prominent that a German leader’s speech to the Bundestag makes our national headlines when it taps into our fears of bellicose foreign enemies.

But two recent YouGov polls suggest that most Brits are far less suspicious of foreigners than the Mail on Sunday’s headline writers would have us believe.

A poll for Demos did find lower levels of trust for foreigners than for Brits, but overall very little outright distrust:

So while there’s more agnosticism about foreigners’ trustworthiness compared with Brits’, only 1 in 50 feel strongly that they are generally not trustworthy.

And when we look at attitudes to people in specific countries, there are very few grounds for lazy assumptions that Brits still detest Germans. In fact, more people think Germans are very trustworthy than think the same about our special transatlantic friends. Even suspicion of French people is the view of a minority:

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Will Scotland ever support an end to British Summer Time?

Posted in Climate Sock, Social on November 7th, 2011 by Leo – 1 Comment

How other campaigners must envy those working on the campaign to shift forward UK time an hour, Lighter Later. A news hook big enough to hang the Glenfinnan Viaduct is gifted to them twice a year with such regularity you could, well, set your clock by it.

Yet the story of public opinion about the proposal has become predictable. Most of Britain wants to abandon the current system, the government are open to it, but nothing will happen so long as the Scots have their say.

The polls back this up to an extent, but the reality is a bit more interesting.

On the question of whether we should make the change, YouGov’s poll from February this year shows about 50% more support than oppose it across Britain, though generally with more support the further south, and less the further north.

But the question of why Scots oppose it so strongly isn’t all that simple.

A poll by Mori in 2005 asked people what they thought the consequences would be of shifting forward the day by an hour. Surprisingly, Scots agreed with the positive arguments for the change, and disagreed with those against it:

Curiously, this poll did exactly what I would do if I wanted to find the highest level of support possible for changing the system. The respondents were taken through the positive consequences of making the change, and then asked whether they would support it. You would expect support after those arguments to be higher than it would have been if people were asked without any prompting.

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Sexism and support for the rules of succession

Posted in Social on October 30th, 2011 by Leo – Comments Off on Sexism and support for the rules of succession

A poll on the reforms to the royal succession rules has shown the extent to which some men still think women should have lower priority in line to the throne.

When asked by YouGov whether men and women should be treated equally in the succession, five in six women agreed, but only two thirds of men supported the change – a gap of 17 points:

It certainly looks like sexism: men are significantly more likely to think that royal women shouldn’t have the same entitlements as royal men. Could there be another explanation?

Perhaps men are less likely to agree because they think the monarchy should be abolished entirely rather than reformed. But another poll, in April, found that men and women were equally likely (63%) to think that Britain would be worse off without a Royal Family, so it can’t be that.

Alternatively, maybe the response isn’t about sexism so much as about tradition. Perhaps men are more likely to think that, since the monarchy represents continuity with the past, it should be changed as little as possible. So their weaker support wouldn’t be because they don’t trust women to rule them, but because they don’t believe in changing the rules.

But another question in the YouGov poll, on support for changing the rule about marrying Catholics, undermines this. Men are slightly less supportive than women, but only by seven points. Given that this change would have much greater constitutional significance, there’s no way attachment to tradition can explain the response to the gender question.

Finally, we might suggest it’s about salience. Perhaps men are less interested in the monarchy, and so don’t want the government spending time amending it.

But even if this were true it couldn’t explain the gap in the gender question, for two reasons. Firstly, the gender question doesn’t explicitly ask whether the rules should be changed, but only whether men and women should be treated equally. Secondly, there’s again salience argument can’t account for why the Catholic question should produce a much smaller gap than the gender question.

So having considered alternative explanations, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the debate about the succession has exposed a sexist view that some men continue to hold: that men are more suited than women to be our rulers.

What’s in it for Cameron to support same-sex marriage?

Posted in Politics, Social on October 16th, 2011 by Leo – 1 Comment

Earlier this month, Cameron told his party conference, “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

It’s been said that the announcement was bold, putting Cameron to the left of his party, and restaking his claim to a socially progressive agenda. The polls certainly suggest some interesting consequences for Cameron in taking the position.

Firstly, it’s not clear that others share his view that supporting gay marriage is a Conservative thing to do.

The official speech text confirms he was talking about capital-C Conservatives. Yet only about a third of those who voted Tory last year would support gay marriage. Three in five expressly oppose it.

So, Conservatives don’t think it was a Conservative thing to do, and despite the applause at the time, they may not rejoice in the announcement. But perhaps, regardless of Cameron’s explanation, it was really aimed at supporters of other parties.

It is certainly the case that gay marriage is much more popular with other voters, particularly Lib Dems:

But beyond any attempt to win other parties’ supporters, there are two other polling-based reasons why the announcement could be helpful for Cameron.

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