Majority of Britons think it is unacceptable to protest outside homes of MPs

8 in 10 people think Britain is divided according to Ipsos polling on attitudes to the right to protest and concerns about extremism and democracy.

The author(s)
  • Hannah Shrimpton Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
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  • Almost half (45%) think that “mob rule is replacing democratic rule” in Britain today
  • 8 in 10 think Britain is very or fairly divided

New polling from Ipsos, taken March 8th to 11th 2024, explores attitudes to protest in Britain, how divided British society is and concern about different aspects of live in Britain.

How divided is Britain?

The research shows that an overwhelming majority of the public think that British society is divided these days (81%), consistent with previous trends. One in ten (11%) said that Britain is not divided, which is slightly lower than in September 2022 (-4ppts). 

Ipsos chart: Overall, how divided do you think British society is these days? 81% say very/fairly divided; 11% say not very/not at all divided - March 2024


Concern about life in Britain

When asked to consider how concerned they were about a selection of issues in Britain, over four in five said that they were concerned about the state of British public services (84%) and the state of the British economy (83%). 70% said that they were concerned about the state of democracy in Britain. 

The public were also asked to consider how concerned they are about different types of extremism in Britain, in light of the recent announcement on changes to the definition of extremism. Although less concerned about different types of extremism compared to the state of public services, the economy, and democracy, almost two thirds (65%) said they were concerned about the rise of religious extremism in Britain (24% not concerned). 62% said they were concerned about the rise of right-wing extremism in Britain (24% not concerned). Over half (52%) said they were concerned about the rise of left-wing extremism in Britain, compared to a third (33%) who said they were not concerned. 

Ipsos Chart: How concerned or not concerned are you about each of the following? (% Very/fairly concerned March 2024) The state of British public services 84% The state of the British economy 83% The state of democracy in Britain 70% The rise of religious extremism in Britain 65% The rise of right-wing extremism in Britain 62% The rise of left-wing extremism in Britain 52%


Alongside this, the public were presented with a quote about extremism in Britain from a recent speech by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: “In Britain today, mob rule is replacing democratic rule”. The sample was split, so that only half were told that the quote was from Rishi Sunak. Regardless of whether the quote was attributed to Sunak or not, 45% described the statement as accurate across both samples. Likewise 35% who saw that the quote was from Sunak described it as inaccurate, compared to 34% who did not see that the quote was from the Prime Minister. 

Acceptable forms of protest

The public were then asked about how acceptable or unacceptable they thought it was for citizens to carry out acts of protest in certain environments. Over three in five (61%) felt it was acceptable for people to protest outside of Parliament or other government buildings (17% unacceptable), whilst half (53%) said that it was acceptable to protest in parks or green spaces (20% unacceptable). Almost half (46%) said it was acceptable to protest on city streets, compared to a quarter (26%) who said it was unacceptable. 

However the public did not think that all environments were suitable for acts of protest. Over half (55%) said it was unacceptable to protest outside MP’s homes, compared to less than a quarter who thought it was acceptable (23%). Similarly almost three in five (58%) did not think it was acceptable to carry out acts of protest on bridges or motorways (21% acceptable). 

Ipsos Chart: In general, how acceptable or unacceptable do you think it is for citizens to carry out acts of protest in each of the following environments? (% Very/fairly unacceptable March 2024) Outside of Parliament or other government buildings (e.g., local council offices, courthouses)	61% In parks / common green spaces 53% On city streets 46% Outside of MPs homes 23% On bridges / motorways 21%


Hannah Shrimpton, Research Director at Ipsos Public Affairs, says of the findings:

These results suggest mixed public views on acceptability of different acts of process – and some concern over the state of democracy. Support for process can hinge on location, with protests outside Parliament or government buildings seen as more acceptable than protests on motorways or outside MPs homes. However, it’s important to view this in context –concern over extremism in Britain is overshadowed by other concerns, such as the state of public services or the economy.

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,089 adults aged 16-75 in Great Britain. Interviews took place on the online Omnibus 8-11 March 2024. Data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)
  • Hannah Shrimpton Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs

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