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British Social Attitudes to the monarchy

09 September 2022 | Tags: British Social Attitudes, monarchy

How important does the public feel it is for Britain to continue to have a monarchy? The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has today released new data detailing trends in attitudes to the monarchy from 1983 to 2021.

The public has consistently said it’s important for Britain to continue to have a monarchy

In every year when data was collected on the British Social Attitudes survey from 1983 to 2021, a majority has said it is important for Britain to continue to have a monarchy.

Between 1994 and 2021, on average, two-thirds (67%) of people in Britain have expressed this view.

In 2021, 31% said the monarchy was ‘very important’, 24% said it was ‘quite important’ and 18% said it was ‘not very important’. Eleven per cent said it was ‘not at all important’ and 14% said it should be abolished.

The impact of royal successes and problems on public consent

Strong support for the monarchy reached the highest point for 20 years in 2011 and 2012, the years of HM The Queen’s first ever visit to the Republic of Ireland and her handshake with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, as well as Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Forty-two percent in 2011 and 46% in 2012 said it was ‘very important’ for Britain to have a monarchy, demonstrating the positive impact royal successes can have on public consent for the monarchy.

Support for the monarchy has declined in recent years during a period of problems and controversies surrounding Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as well as Prince Andrew.

The 55% who said it was ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important for Britain to have a monarchy in 2021 is the lowest figure on record, while those who said it is either ‘not at all important’ or that it should be abolished reached a quarter (25%) for the first time.

An uncertain future for public support for the monarchy?

Younger people are less likely than older people to say that it is ‘very important’ that Britain has a monarchy. 14% of under 35 year olds took this view in 2021, compared with 44% of those aged 55 and over.

This may suggest a risk that support for the monarchy will decline as today’s older generation is replaced by younger cohorts. However, the gap between younger and older people was much the same in 1994 as it is now.

The relative stability of the age gap reflects the fact that the older they become, the more likely they are to feel it is ‘very important’ to have a monarchy.

For example, in 1994 only 22% of those born in the 1960s felt that it was ‘very important’ to have a monarchy. Today, 38% of those born in the 1960s express that view, seven points above the proportion among all adults.

Guy Goodwin, Chief Executive of NatCen, said: “British Social Attitudes is the longest-running measure of public opinion in Britain, and it shows a remarkable level of stability and continuity in support for the monarchy during The Queen’s reign. It also reflects how the successes and challenges faced by the Royal Family can impact on public consent for the monarchy. In the wake of sadness and mourning at the end of the second Elizabethan era, it will remain to be seen how the British public will assess the performance of the Royal Family without The Queen at its helm.”

ENDS

For more information please contact:

Oliver Paynel, Communications Manager
National Centre for Social Research
t: 0207 549 9550, m: 07734 960 071, e: oliver.paynel@natcen.ac.uk

Katie Crabb, Head of Marketing and Communications
National Centre for Social Research
t: 0207 549 8504, e: katie.crabb@natcen.ac.uk

Notes to editors

1. NatCen’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey has been conducted annually since 1983. Each year the survey asks around people what it's like to live in Britain and what they think about how Britain is run. Since 1983 more than 115,000 people have taken part in the survey.

2. The 2021 BSA survey consisted of 6,250 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain and was conducted between 16 September and 31 October 2021.

3. The full wording for the question asked about the monarchy on the BSA survey is, “How important or unimportant do you think it is for Britain to continue to have a monarchy...very important, quite important, not very important, not at all important, or, do you think the monarchy should be abolished?”

4. This year’s BSA survey was completed online by a representative sample of respondents who were invited at random by post. There was an option to be interviewed by phone if preferred. This is the same design as used in the 2020 BSA. Prior to 2020 BSA was a face-to-face survey, but this was changed as a result of the public health measures introduced in the wake of the pandemic.