State of the Nation Survey 1991

A wide-ranging survey on political and constitutional issues and election campaigns, for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT).

MORI interviewed a nationally representative quota sample of 1,034 adults aged 18+ at 146 constituency sampling points across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted face-to-face, in home, on 7-25 March 1991. Data were weighted to match the profile of the population. A further "booster" sample of 513 adults aged 18+ was also interviewed at 34 constituency sampling points across Scotland, to allow for separate analysis of opinion in Scotland on some issues, but except where noted data from the booster sample is not included in the figures given below, which are based wholly on the main sample of 1,034 adults.

Q1a How would you vote if there were a General Election tomorrow? (If undecided or refused at Q1a) Q1b Which party are you most inclined to support? Base: All expressing a voting intention (892)

Conservative 41
Labour 37
Liberal Democrat 18
Scottish/Welsh Nationalist 1
Green 2
Other 1
Q2 If for some reason you couldn't vote for the ... party [named in the voting intention question], which party would you vote for instead? Base: All expressing a voting intention (892)
  All Conservative voters Labour voters Lib Dem voters
  % % % %
Conservative 9 - 7 32
Labour 10 8 - 31
Liberal Democrat 38 53 41 -
Scottish/Welsh Nationalist 2 2 4 1
Green 5 1 9 6
Other 1 1 2 1
Would not vote 18 21 16 18
Undecided 12 10 16 9
Refused 5 5 5 4


Q3a Which of these statements comes closest to describing the reason you intend to vote for the Base: All expressing a voting intention (892)

  All Conservative voters Labour voters Lib Dem voters
  % % % %
It is the party that most represents your views 84 86 84 75
The party you most support has little chance of winning in this constituency, so you will vote for the ... party to keep another party out 9 8 9 15
Other 3 2 3 7
No opinion 4 4 4 3

Trends on this question

Q3b Which of these statements describes your attitude to voting? Base: All not giving a voting intention, i.e. would not vote, undecided or refused at Q1a/b (142)

I don't tell people how I vote, as a point of principle 17
I usually don't vote, I don't think it's very important 7
I usually don't vote, my vote doesn't make any difference 10
I think it's important to vote, but I haven't chosen a party yet 20
I can't say which party I'll vote for until I know who the local candidate is 12
The party I would prefer to vote for has no chance in this area 6
None of the parties stands for the policies I would like to see 15
Other 9
Don't know/no answer 14

Q4 From this card, how interested would you say you are in politics?

Very interested 13
Fairly interested 47
Not very interested 26
Not at all interested 13
Don't know *

Trends on this question

Q5 Which of these statements best describes your opinion on the present system of governing Britain?

Works extremely well and could not be improved 4
Could be improved in small ways but mainly works well 29
Could be improved quite a lot 40
Needs a great deal of improvement 23
Don't know 5

Trends on this question

Q6 In what ways, in particular, do you think the system could be improved? Base: All who think the system could be improved (941)

Abolish the poll tax 28
National Health Service problems/more money for NHS 14
Improve voting system 13
Proportional representation (specific mentions) 12
More interest in working class/take notice of man in the street 9
Better education policy/more money for education 9
Don't know/not stated 13
Other answers (6% and below) omitted

  Q7 I am going to read out a list, and I would like you to tell me, from this card, how much, if anything, you feel you know about each one?

  A great deal A fair amount  Just a little Hardly anything at all Never heard of Don't know
The European Community % 2 17 45 34 2 1
The House of Lords % 1 18 41 39 * 1
Your local council % 4 26 40 29 * *
Your rights as a citizen % 4 43 35 17 * 1
Proportional representation % 5 25 28 30 10 3
The way Parliament works % 3 34 36 25 1 1
The British constitution % 3 21 35 32 8 1

Trends on these questions

Q8 Overall, how well or badly do you think Parliament works?

Very well 5
Fairly well 54
Neither well nor badly 21
Fairly badly 12
Very badly 4
Don't know 4

Trends on this question

Q9 What is the name of the Parliamentary Constituency that you live in?

Correct answer 43
Incorrect answer 22
Don't know 35

Q10 What is the name of the current Member of Parliament for this constituency?

Correct answer 52
Incorrect answer 8
Don't know 40

Trends on this question

Q11 Which political party does the MP for this constituency represent?

Correct answer 79
Incorrect answer 8
Don't know 13

Q12 On balance, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the job the local MP is doing for this constituency?

Satisfied 43
Dissatisfied 23
Don't know/no opinion 34

Trends on this question

Q13 And which political party do you think came second in this constituency in the last election, in June 1987?

Correct answer 41
Incorrect answer 33
Don't know 26

Q14 As far as you know, do you live in a marginal constituency, or not? That is, was the result of the last general election quite close in this area or not?

  Marginal seats* Safe seats
  % %
Yes, marginal, result close 34 18
No, not marginal, MP won easily 39 56
Don't know 28 27

*"Marginal seat" was defined for this analysis as any constituency where the majority in 1987 was less than 10% of the vote

Q15 As far as you know, are you registered to vote at the moment, or not?

Yes 95
No 3
Don't know 2

Q16 Which of the reasons on this card, if any, would you use to describe why you are not registered to vote? Base: All not registered to vote (31)

Religious principle 1
Political principle 5
Just moved into area 17
Never vote/not interested 1
My vote makes no difference 1
Didn't know I had to register 1
Lost the form/forgot 2
To avoid the poll tax 2
Moving away soon 3
Was too young at the time 1
Other 6

Q17 During an election campaign do you think there should or should not be... ...a ban on all coverage of the election on TV and radio? ...a ban on party political broadcasts on TV and radio? ...a ban on all coverage of the election in newspapers? ...a ban on the publication of opinion polls?

  Should Should not Don't know
Ban on all coverage of the election on TV and radio % 14 84 2
Ban on party political broadcasts on TV and radio % 18 79 2
Ban on all coverage of the election in newspapers % 10 88 2
Ban on the publication of opinion polls % 21 74 5

Trends on these questions

Q18 It has been suggested that during general elections a fixed amount of public money should be given to political parties to finance election campaigns. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?

Good idea 39
Bad idea 53
Don't know 8

Q19a It has also been suggested that contributions from other sources should be banned. First of all, do you think contributions from trade unions should be banned, or not? Q19b And do you think that contributions from companies should be banned, or not?

  Trade unions Companies
  % %
Should be banned 46 44
Should not be banned 43 45
Don't know 11 11

Q20a Do you think there should or should not be a set limit to the amount of money political parties can spend across the nation on general election campaigns? Q20b Do you think there should or should not be a set limit to the amount of money political parties can spend on local campaigning during general elections?

  National spending Local spending
  % %
Yes, should be a limit 81 80
No, should not be a limit 14 14
Don't know 5 6

Q21 The period between the announcement of a general election and polling day itself is usually about one month. How long would you personally like this period to be?

About a week in all 4
About 2 weeks in all 6
About 3 weeks in all 2
About a month in  all (as at present) 72
About 5 weeks in all 0
About 6 weeks in all 3
About 2 months in all 4
Longer than that 3
Don't know 6

Q22 Which of the groups of people on this card do you think should be allowed to vote in Britain?

British citizens living in Britain 98
Citizens from the Irish Republic resident in Britain 31
Citizens from the European Community countries resident in Britain 28
Citizens from Commonwealth countries who reside in Britain 37
Citizens from other countries resident in Britain 27
British citizens living abroad 35
All of these 6
Other *
Don't know 1

Q23 Do you think that Parliament should decide all important issues, or would you like Britain to adopt a referendum system whereby certain issues are put to the people to decide by popular vote?

Government decide 20
Referendum 75
Don't know 5

Q24 In principle, do you think it would be a good or a bad idea if the British people could force the Government to hold a referendum on a particular issue by raising a petition with signatures from, say, a million electors?

Good idea 77
Bad idea 16
Neither 2
No opinion 6

Q25 More specifically, would you personally like to see a referendum held to decide on each of the following?

  Yes, hold No, do not hold Don't know
Referendum on re-introducing the death penalty % 60 37 3
Referendum on abolishing the poll tax % 77 21 2
Referendum on changing the system we use to elect MPs % 43 44 13
Referendum on local government structure to decide whether to keep County or District Councils % 57 31 12

Q26 This card has pairs of alternative statements on it. If you greatly prefer or very strongly agree with option (a), you would choose this box (1). If you greatly prefer or very strongly agree with option (b), you would choose this box (7). You may of course choose a number somewhere between the two.

1 (a) Clearer differences between the parties 8
2 7
3 8
4 16
5 16
6 15
7 (b) More agreement and working together between parties 26
Don't know 3
Mean score 4.85
1 (a) One member of Parliament to represent the area you live in 31
2 11
3 9
4 13
5 12
6 9
7 (b) Several members of Parliament to represent a larger area, possibly from different parties 11
Don't know 4
Mean score 3.39
1 (a) Marking your ballot against one name, as at present 32
2 9
3 7
4 10
5 11
6 10
7 (b) Marking your ballot so you could indicate your first second and third choices 16
Don't know 4
Mean score 3.58
1 (a) One party in government with all others in opposition 28
2 10
3 7
4 17
5 10
6 11
7 (b) Two or more parties forming a coalition government 14
Don't know 4
Mean score 3.62
1 (a) It is important for a government to be strong and stable, even if it occasionally goes too far 18
2 13
3 12
4 14
5 13
6 10
7 (b) Achieving agreement is important for a government, even if it means more elections 15
Don't know 4
Mean score 3.85
1 (a) It is important for a government to be able to take decisive action without looking over its shoulder all the time 14
2 8
3 10
4 16
5 14
6 13
7 (b) Constitutional checks and balances are important to make sure that a government doesn't overdo it 20
Don't know 4
Mean score 4.34
1 (a) The current electoral system should be retained as it preserves two strong parties, each able to form government 16
2 9
3 11
4 20
5 10
6 11
7 (b) The two-party system is now an obstacle to progress in Britain by blocking the advance of other parties and narrowing the range of alternative policies 17
Don't know 6
Mean score 4.04

Moves towards economic and political union with Europe will...

1 (a) ...weaken Britain's ability to protect British interests by handing power to Europe 13
2 9
3 9
4 21
5 13
6 11
7 (b) ...strengthen Britain's ability to protect British interests by gaining collective power 19
Don't know 6
Mean score 4.27

Q27 Now I am going to read out a number of policies, and I would like you to tell me, from this card, whether you support or oppose each.

  Strongly support Tend to support Neither/ nor Tend to oppose Strongly oppose Don't know
Make voting in elections compulsory % 27 22 9 21 21 *
Change Britain's electoral system to a system of proportional representation % 23 27 16 16 7 11
Fixing the length of a parliament so removing the power of government to choose the date of an election % 21 35 16 18 5 5
Replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber % 17 23 23 19 10 8
Holding general elections at weekends instead of weekdays % 14 23 37 15 9 2

Trends on support for: proportional representation; fixed-term Parliaments; House of Lords reform.

Q28 If you had to choose, which of the options on this card comes closest to your own views on how the country should be run after the next election?

One party should gain an overall majority and form the government 49
No clear majority, but some parties should form a coalition government 23
No clear majority, but the largest party should form the government and seek co-operation of other parties on polices they can support 22
None of these 1
Don't know 5

Trends on attitudes to hung parliaments

Now I would like to ask you some questions about freedom and individual rights in Great Britain.

Q29 Now I am going to read out a number of statements, and I would like you to tell me, from this card, whether you agree or disagree with each one.

  Strongly agree Tend to agree Neither agree nor disagree Tend to disagree Strongly disagree No opinion
Government power in Britain is too centralised % 17 43 17 16 2 5
Britain needs a Bill of Rights to protect the liberty of the individual % 25 47 12 9 2 5
Individual citizens' rights are less well protected in Britain than in the rest of the European Community %  12 26 23  20 4 16
The system of government in Britain is out of date % 16 29 16 26 8 5
The British government can change individual citizens' rights too easily % 17 37 17 18 4 8
In Britain the rights of individual citizens are better protected by the force of public opinion than by formal legal safeguards % 11 37 21 18 4 9
Parliament does not have sufficient control over what the government does % 10 40 19 20 3 9
There should be a freedom of information act, giving the right of access to information collected by public authorities, subject to adequate safeguards on national security, crime prevention and personal privacy % 37 40 8 6 3 5
Britain is a society in which everyone has an equal opportunity to develop their skills and get on in life % 14 32 8 28 16 1

Q30 Which of these groups, if any, do you think do not have an equal opportunity to develop their skills and get on in life? Base: All who disagree at Q29 that everyone has an equal opportunity (441)

Asian people 34
Black people 43
Disabled people 65
Homeless people 62
Women 35
Jews 11
Gay/lesbian people 20
Poor people 63
Working class people 38
Irish people 12
Unemployed people 57
Small businessmen 22
Other 1
None of these 0
Don't know 1

Q31 At the moment, local magistrates are appointed to their positions. Would you like to see magistrates elected by local people, or not?

Yes, elected 60
No, not elected 31
Don't know 9

Q32 Here is a list of things that some people have said might happen as a result of closer government co-ordination across member states of the European Community. Which of these, if any, do you think are likely to happen in the next ten years as a result of our membership of the European Community?

A single European currency 56
A common European defence policy 42
Improvements in workers' rights 33
Freedom to work in any member state 53
Cleaner beaches 44
Laws which are less sensitive to the British way of life 33
More individual liberties than we have now 19
Better ability to deal with terrorism 35
A different electoral system 27
A higher standard of living 30
None of these 1
Don't know/no opinion 9

Q33 Now thinking about the running of Scotland, which of these options would you most like to see?

  All Great Britain Scotland*
  % %
An independent Scotland, which is separate from both England and Wales and the European Community 4 9
An independent Scotland, which is separate from England and Wales but part of the European Community 12 23
Scotland remaining part of the UK but with its own devolved assembly with some taxation and spending powers 43 51
No change from present system 30 16
Don't know 11 1

*Figures for Scotland include the booster sample

Q34 If the Conservatives win the next general election, but again have a minority of seats in Scotland, which of the following courses of action do you think the opposition parties in Scotland should adopt?

  All Great Britain Scotland*
  % %
Accept that the Conservatives have been elected at Westminster and should continue to run Scotland through the Scottish Office, as at present 39 26
Present a bill to Parliament to set up a Scottish Assembly 39 62
Refuse to take their seats at Westminster as a protest 5 6
No opinion 17 6

*Figures for Scotland include the booster sample

Q35 Would you support or oppose giving greater powers of government to Wales? Q36 And would you support or oppose giving greater powers of government to Northern Ireland? Q37 And would you support or oppose giving greater powers of government to other regions of Britain, such as the West Country, the North West, East Anglia etc?

  Wales Northern Ireland Other regions
  % % %
Yes, support 42 42 27
No, oppose 40 43 61
Don't know 18 16 12

Q38 I am going to read some changes that might be introduced, and I would like you to tell me, from this card, what action, if any, you think you would take if each were to happen.

  Sign a petition Write to MP Attend a demon-stration Vote against your favoured party None of these Don't know
Closure of a local hospital % 68 34 19 9 8 2
Restrict the right to free speech % 47 34 24 17 14 3
Make immigration laws more restrictive % 24 13 4 4 57 6
Restrict press freedom % 37 18 7 8 40 6
Withdraw the right to demonstrate peacefully % 37 23 20 10 30 4
Ban on trade unions in all public services % 37 17 15 11 38 5

Q39 Which of the things on this list, if any, have you done in the last two or three years?

Presented my views to a local councillor or MP 22
Written a letter to a newspaper 10
Urged someone outside my family to vote 22
Urged someone to get in touch with a local councillor or MP 26
Made a speech before an organisation/group 12
Been elected an officer of an organisation or club 12
Stood for public office *
Taken an active part in a political campaign  4
Helped on fund raising drives  37

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