The birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child is the latest in a string of events that have helped increase the Royal Family’s popularity amongst the British public, as shown in our recent polling with King’s College London. The public’s preference for keeping the Monarchy rather than Britain becoming a republic is at the highest levels recorded since opinion polling on the subject began.
The chart above shows the shifts in the numbers in each generation who feel that it is “very important” for the Monarchy to continue based on British Social Attitudes data. The perceived importance of the Monarchy is considerably lower than it was in the early 1980s, but after a broadly static period between about 1994 and 2006, there now seems to a clear upward trend emerging. In 2011 the view that the Monarchy was very important reached 42% - which is the highest level of support since 1994. After two further years of pomp and ceremony – the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the birth of Prince George – approval is likely to have risen higher still (as shown in our more recent polling).
There are clear generational differences in this support, with the pre-war generation standing out as particularly different and significantly more supportive. At the other end of the scale, generation Y are the least convinced. One third think the Monarchy is ‘very important’, and a further third think it is ‘quite important’: the remainder do not think the Monarchy is important, but only 7% overall call for its outright abolition.
But what is particularly interesting is that the movement of opinion among the different generations has been almost completely in line: the positive impression that the Royal Family has succeeded in making over the past few years has boosted the Monarchy among young and old alike, just as the fall in enthusiasm between the early eighties and early nineties affected the pre-war generation and the baby-boomers equally.
So it does not seem that the increasing ambivalence of younger generations towards the Monarchy is a sign that they are already set in those ways and cannot be won over by the Royal Family. But if every generation entering adulthood continues to start out less supportive of the Monarchy than its predecessor, maintaining overall levels of support will be steadily harder as the 21st century progresses.