Support for Britain’s monarchy is at an “all time high”, according to the pollsters IpsosMORI. This is quite a claim to make, even for a firm whose data sometimes seems to go back to the early Middle Ages. Even so, the Jubilee has highlighted the huge public support for the Royal Family and their place in our constitution.
Upwards of three quarters of people in Britain support keeping the monarchy, according to surveys in recent weeks, and a clear majority say the country would be worse off without the Royal Family. Support among Tories is overwhelming, but more than two thirds of Labour voters want to keep the Queen as sovereign. Perhaps surprisingly, those who want to keep the monarchy feel more strongly about the subject, according to YouGov, than the few who would prefer an elected head of state.
The Queen enjoys approval ratings that elected politicians can only dream of. Even most of those who would rather replace her with a president think she has done a good job. Other prominent members of the Royal Family score highly – particularly the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – and when 29% told YouGov last month that they thought Prince Philip was “a liability” it is hard not to think they did so with an affectionate chuckle.
(As is often the case when great national occasions create extra space for newspapers to fill, some polling questions were more sensible than others. My favourite, also from YouGov, found that while more than half think Elizabeth II is “one of Britain’s great Monarchs”, ten per cent think she is “an average Monarch”. An average Monarch?)
Robust support for the monarchy is not confined to our shores. Recent polling by Roy Morgan Research has found that support for the monarchy in Australia is at its highest level for 24 years. In November 1999, 45% voted to replace the Queen and Governor General with a president; today only just over a third (35%) believe the Commonwealth of Australia should become a republic. More than half (58%) want to keep the status quo, a 6-point increase since October last year. Though this partly reflects respect for the Queen, Australians said they would still prefer to keep the monarchy if she were succeeded by Prince Charles or Prince William. Not surprisingly, support is strongest among supporters of the centre-right Liberal National Party, nearly three quarters of whom favour the current constitutional settlement – but support is evenly divided among voters for Julia Gillard’s Australian Labor.
The campaign group Australian Republic claimed the Jubilee celebrations “reinforce the positive republican arguments about Australian national identity”. Australians do not seem to concur.