The Monarchy

To mark the Queen becoming our longest-reigning Monarch, here is Dr. Roger Mortimore's article from our 2012 almanac with an update from Gideon Skinner.

The Monarchy


2015 comment from Gideon Skinner:

The monarchy has always had majority support from the British public in our research at Ipsos MORI, but the last few years have seen a real boost after some lows in the 90s. Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in 2011, the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and Prince George was born in 2013, followed by Princess Charlotte earlier this year, and these landmarks have seen support for the Monarchy rise to record levels. Eighty percent said they supported Britain remaining a monarchy in 2012 – the highest ever since we began running this poll in 1993 – and support has stayed in the high 70s since. Underpinning this is the personal popularity of the Queen – she receives personal satisfaction levels that most politicians can only dream of – but just as good news is that the younger generation of Royals also receive high satisfaction levels, and are especially liked among younger Britons. Many people do expect the monarchy to move with the times (two in three, for example, want Prince George to have a ‘normal’ job before taking on his royal duties), and there are some misgivings about its cost; nevertheless, if future events such as the Queen becoming the longest-reigning monarch can bolster this support among all generations and especially younger Britons, it will go a long way to the monarchy feeling confident for the future. 

The Monarchy has as strong a place in the affections of the British public, as it has for two decades. All of our polls during the year asking people whether they favoured retaining the Monarchy or would prefer a republic found support for the Monarchy between 77% and 80%, higher than the previous record of 75% in our long series of polls stretching back to 1993. Moreover, with the last of these three polls having been conducted in November, there is no sign that support has begun to slip back as the euphoria of the Jubilee and the Olympics becomes a memory.


Personal support for the Queen herself, of course, has played a crucial part in this. Twice during the year we found that nine in ten people in Britain are satisfied with the way she is doing her job as Monarch, again the highest ratings ever. This 90% satisfaction rating means that, even among those who would prefer Britain to become a republic, the majority approve of her performance. Only 7% of the public say they are dissatisfied with her.

However, the Queen’s satisfaction ratings have always been so high as to make any politician envious, and the public’s preference for the Monarchy over a republic has always been completely static – even in that traumatic week after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales – until it moved even further towards the Monarchy this year. What may be of much more significance is the public’s confidence in the Monarchy’s future. In November, three people in five (60%) said they thought Britain will still have a Monarchy in fifty years’ time, against 27% who thought not, more than a two-to-one majority. This is the highest number predicting the Monarchy’s survival since January 1990, and a very substantial improvement since the mid 1990s: in 1996, the opinion by 48% to 33% was that it would not last another half-century. Even those who wanted the Monarchy to continue lacked belief that it would or could. Most of these probably underestimated the strength of their fellow citizens’ support for the institution, beset as they were by embarrassing news stories and hostile media coverage. Now the mood has swung and the boot is very much on the other foot.


Opponents of the Monarchy will no doubt put their hopes in things changing after the end of the present Queen’s reign. Prince Charles is less popular than his mother, although his critics are fewer and less vocal than they were fifteen years ago. A significant minority, 36% in June, would prefer him to give up his right to the throne in favour of Prince William. However, with 78% satisfied with his performance as Prince of Wales, he hardly gives the impression of being a weak link. (No Prime Minister in all the years we have been polling has ever topped 75%).

But it is Prince William, rather than the Queen or Prince Charles, who is most popular Royal of all. When people were asked to name the two or three members of the Royal Family they liked the most, he came top of the list, picked by 62%, ahead of the Queen (48%), Prince Harry (36%) and the Duchess of Cambridge (23%). Moreover, the younger Royals are even more popular with the younger generations than with the public as a whole. Given that one of the few apparent signs of weakness in the public standing of the Monarchy is that support is a little lower among the young, this is clearly a good sign. William, Kate and Harry are, presumably, going to be with us a long time and, if their popularity with Britons of their own age can help further to buttress support for the institution, the public’s newly burgeoning confidence in the Monarchy’s future may well prove justified.


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