Does the UK support the Royal Family? Timeline of British opinion on monarchy - and why it has changed

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Support for the monarchy has waned over time - but how many people want to ditch the monarchy, and are younger people less likely to back them?

Celebrations will be in full swing up and down the UK this Jubilee bank holiday weekend as the country marks Queen Elizabeth becoming the first British monarch to reach 70 years on the throne.

With the Queen recently passing her 96th birthday, speculation is rife about the future of the monarchy once the throne passes to her eldest son Prince Charles.

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Despite Charles’ relative lack of popularity compared to his mother, support for the institution of the monarchy remains high in the UK, with a majority of the population in favour of retaining the Royal Family, the latest data shows.

Most people in the UK still support keeping the Royal Family - here’s what the latest opinion polls show. Most people in the UK still support keeping the Royal Family - here’s what the latest opinion polls show.
Most people in the UK still support keeping the Royal Family - here’s what the latest opinion polls show. | NationalWorld

But has public opinion on the monarchy cooled over time, and is support for abolishing the Crown growing?

NationalWorld has analysed the latest data to find out where the public stands on the Royals.

How has support for the monarchy changed over time?

The Queen’s 70-year reign has seen 14 different Prime Ministers and huge societal changes.

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The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has been asking people in Great Britain what they think about the monarchy on and off for decades, in their annual British Social Attitudes Survey.

Their data shows a drastic decline from the 1980s to the 1990s in the proportion of people who say they think it is important for Britain to continue to have a monarchy.

In 1983, 87% of people said it was important, with 65% saying it was very important and 22% saying it was quite important.

By 1993, that had fallen to 66% overall (32% very important, 34% quite important).

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During this time the Royal Family was embroiled in controversy over, among other things, Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s tumultuous relationship.

The year 1992 was dubbed the Queen’s “annus horribilis” (horrible year), after Charles and Diana separated.

Support for the monarchy dipped as low as 59% in 2003. In later years however their standing and reputation recovered, with 76% of people thinking the Royals important in 2012 – the Queen’s diamond jubilee, or 60th year on the throne.

How have attitudes changed in more recent years?

In 2018, the latest cohort of monarchy attitudes data from NatCen, just under 6% of respondents (one in 18) wanted to abolish the monarchy – small fry compared to a high of 11% in 1996, the year of the Diana and Charles divorce.

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More recently, a poll by IPSOS found that support for the monarchy was at a 30 year low in November, with only 60% of people supporting Britain remaining a monarchy, the lowest level for this question since 1993.

People were asked “should Britain become a republic or remain a monarchy?”

This ebb in support of the monarchy did not result in a rise in support for Britain becoming a republic though, IPSOS said.

The proportion of people in favour of this remained “fairly stable” over the last 30 years, at 21% in November, with a fifth of people saying they ‘don’t know’ – the highest level of uncertainty for almost three decades.

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A more recent YouGov survey carried out between 16 and 17 May paints a similar picture, with 62% of people saying Britain should continue to have a monarchy in future, 22% saying it should have an elected head of state instead, and 16% undecided.

When YouGov asked the same question 10 years ago, 73% of people were on Team Monarchy, 16% were for a republic, and 11% did not know.

In 2019, publisher Unherd conducted a survey with polster Focaldata.

They asked how much respondents agreed with the statement “I am a strong supporter of the continued reign of the Royal Family”.

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Only 48% of people across Britain said they supported the monarchy (either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement) with 25% disagreeing and 28% not sure.

The wording of the question required respondents to say they were a strong supporter of the monarchy however, rather than simply a supporter.

Which groups of people support the monarchy the most?

Women are generally more supportive of the continued existence of the monarchy than men are, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey.

In 2015, the last year with a sex breakdown, 79% of females said it was important (46% very, 33% quite) compared to 66% of males (34% very, 32% quite).

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There was also a clear age divide, with younger respondents less likely to be supportive.

In 2015, 67% of 17 to 34 year olds said it was important to keep the Royal family, compared to 71% of 35 to 54 year olds and 79% of 55 and overs.

YouGov’s recent survey also shows higher support among women, with 64% in favour of Britain keeping a monarchy in the future versus 59% of men.

It also showed higher support among people who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election (84% compared to 48% of Labour voters) and those who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum (77%, versus 54% for Remainers).

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Are there differences across the UK?

Support for the monarchy is particularly low in London and Scotland, according to YouGov’s survey from earlier this month – although results were only presented for a select group of regions.

In London, 50% of people wanted the UK to remain a monarchy in the future (compared to 62% of the country overall), while in Scotland support stood at just 47%.

There was also a higher proportion of people who thought Britain should have an elected head of state instead in future in these parts of the country – 33% in London and 32% in Scotland, compared to a national average of 22%.

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