For more than 30 years, NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey has been asking the British public their views on the monarchy. The 2015 BSA report highlights important changes in attitudes towards the royal family.
First of all, regardless of when we asked, most people said having a monarchy was very important or important for the country. But the size of this majority has decreased significantly in the past 30 years. In 1983 more than four fifths of the population (86%) were in favour of the monarchy. This figure fell to 66% in 1994 and it remained stable until 2011. This period of lower consensus coincided with allegations of Prince Charles’ infidelity and his subsequent separation from Diana.
By 2011 the tide of public opinion rose again: the percentage of those who supported the monarchy reached 74% of the population. Indeed, this increase has been sustained and in 2015 almost three in four people (73%) remained in favour of the monarchy. This strong rise in support is likely to be due, in no small part, to the royal milestones that took place during this period, such as William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the birth of two Royal babies in 2013 and 2015. The high level of support in the early 1980s also followed a royal wedding and another royal baby: Prince William.
But, despite the majority declaring themselves in favour of the monarchy, support is not consistent among all groups of society. Older people were more likely to say the monarchy is important. In 2015, those who were over 55 were almost twice as likely to say this compared to those aged 17 to 24 years old. But, while older people’s attitudes have remained relatively stable over time, the proportion of young people saying the monarchy is important increased from 57% to 67% between 1994 and 2015. Again, this resurgence of interest on the part of young people is likely to be thanks to the young royals such as William and Kate.
Gender seems to have an influence as well on attitudes towards the monarchy. Although between 1994 and 2011 positive opinions for both genders tended to crystallise around 65%, women always tended to be slightly more supportive. This was evident in 1983 when nine in ten women (90%) and just over four fifths of men (83%) thought the monarchy was important. But the most significant difference was highlighted in 2015: 79% of women and 66% of men said the monarchy was important to Britain, a difference of 13 percentage points. This is probably due to some recent royal events resonating more with women than with men.
Overall it is clear that although less of the British public considers the monarchy important than they did in 1983, on the whole we still regard the monarchy as important for our country. As the Royals’ popularity seems to be enjoying a boost, are we undergoing a process of increasing trust and general satisfaction with the monarchy? Will this growth in positivity continue in the coming years? The only thing we can do is wait and see.