UK Polling on Black Lives Matter

What questions have British polling companies asked?

A column in the Sunday Times claims the level of support for Black Lives Matter is “shrouded”. Rod Liddle’s column states:

There are no opinion polls available.

The suggestion from the columnist was:

I asked one company why this was the case, and the reply was: “Because we were worried we wouldn’t like the results.”

In this article, I look at British polling on the Black Lives Matter protests.

Direct questions about Black Lives Matter

We can look at the archives of British Polling Council members for such polling. Surveys provide estimates, subject to many sources of potential error. There is a range around each estimate: it could be somewhat higher or lower.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies (GB adults, 11th June 2020)

Redfield & Wilton Strategies contacted 1,500 GB adults online. The fieldwork was all on 11th June. The survey was on behalf of iNews. Their question was:

To what extent, if at all, do you agree or disagree with the stated aims of the Black Lives Matter movement?

This is an agree-disagree question: 25% said they “strongly agree” and 34% clicked they “agree”. 15% of respondents said they “disagree” or “strongly disagree”.

The company asked many other questions about the Black Lives Matter protests. One centred on which of two views that respondents are closest to: 59% responded: “I do not think it is defensible for people to protest given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic”. 29% chose the opposite option.

YouGov (GB ethnic minority adults, 10–17th June 2020)

YouGov used their internet panel to question 1,270 adults in ethnic minorities in Great Britain. The survey asked about support for BLM protests, perceived impacts, and other questions. Tanya Abraham (YouGov) wrote an article about this self-funded poll.

The poll estimated 68% of GB ethnic minority adults supported the protests. 11% of respondents opposed the protests. The extent of that support differs by ethnic group.

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In the sample, 16% neither support or oppose the protests. (Image: YouGov)

Opinion polling of British ethnic groups is difficult. Anthony Wells (YouGov) wrote about the methodology for polling British ethnic minorities.

Opinium (UK adults, 18–19th June 2020)

Opinium surveyed 2,001 UK adults via their internet panel. The questions were part of their regular polling on behalf of The Observer. This wave of the survey had responses between 18th and 19th June. Opinium’s question was:

From what you have seen or heard recently, to what extent do you support or oppose the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement in the UK?

49% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat supported the movement. An estimated 22% opposed the movement.

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About a quarter of respondents neither support or oppose the movement. (Image: Opinium)

YouGov (GB adults, 15–16th July 2020)

YouGov gathered responses from 1,631 adults in Great Britain, on 15–16th July 2020. The internet panel poll was for Sun on Sunday. That poll included several questions about Black Lives Matter:

To what extent do you support or oppose the Black Lives Matter protests?

42% of respondents said they “strongly support” or “tend to support” the protests. In the sample, 28% said they opposed protests.

There were other questions about the protests in the poll:

Do you think the Black Lives Matter protests should or should not have gone ahead at this time during the coronavirus crisis?

A plurality (38%) said the protests “should not have gone ahead at all”. Among respondents, 30% said the protests “should have gone ahead at a later time”. Also, 21% backed the protests going ahead “at the present time”.

To what extent would you support or oppose the removal of all statues of historical figures with links to slavery from British towns and cities?

In the sample, there was a plurality of 49% opposing the blanket removal, with 27% in support. The next question was:

And do you support or oppose protesters physically damaging or pulling down statues of historical figures with links to slavery?

For this question, opposition rose to a majority — estimated at 71%. Support fell to around 13%.

Other polls about protests and perceptions

There have been other opinion polls, asking questions related to Black Lives Matter. These opinion polls do not have a question about general support for the protests or do not refer to it by name.

Ipsos MORI (UK adults aged 16 to 74, 4–7th June 2020)

In a multi-country survey, Ipsos MORI asked questions about support for protests. The company conducted the internet panel survey of around 1,000 UK adults aged between 16 and 74. (This is based on a press release, and not a full set of data tables.) Their question was:

Do you support or oppose the peaceful protests and demonstrations that have taken place across the United States after the death of George Floyd?

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About 3 in 4 US adults aged 16 to 74 supported peaceful protests on this topic. (Image: Ipsos MORI)

Among UK respondents, 79% said they supported the “peaceful protests and demonstrations”. In the online sample, 14% opposed.

Survation (UK adults, 9–10th June 2020)

Survation ran a self-funded survey of 1,022 UK adults, via their internet panel. The fieldwork was between 9th and 10th June. There was a question on protesters removing statues:

Some people have argued that such statues should be removed by public authorities such as local councils, and that it is wrong for protestors to take them down themselves. Others have said that since authorities have not removed them, it is justified for protestors to do so. Which of the following statements best reflects your view?

  • 69% of respondents chose: “Statues depicting slave traders and white supremacists should only be removed by public authorities”.
  • 27% selected: “If public authorities don’t remove statues of slave traders and white supremacists, protestors should do so”.

Savanta ComRes (GB adults, 12–14th June 2020)

Savanta ComRes ran a survey on race relations for CNN. The company gathered an online sample of 1,535 GB adults. There was a larger sub-sample of Brits in ethnic minorities. The survey ran between 12th and 14th June.

The survey asked about protesters removing statues:

To what extent do you support or oppose of each of the following? Removal of statues of people involved in the slave trade or colonisation by protestors.

Among respondents, 30% supported these actions, with 46% opposed.

Number Cruncher Politics (UK adults, 3–12th July 2020)

Number Cruncher Politics gathered two online samples. The samples were of 1,563 white UK adults and 1,502 ethnic minority respondents. These surveys were on behalf of ITV. Their question was about perceived impacts:

Would you say that the cause of racial equality has or has not been advanced by the Black Lives Matter movement?

For white respondents, 33% said that it “has”, with 44% responding it “has not”. Among ethnicity minority respondents, there was the reverse plurality. In the sample, 43% said it had and 30% said it had not.

In short

Contrary to the column, there are available opinion polls. Three British polling companies asked direct questions about Black Lives Matter. These questions found pluralities of support or agreement with its aims.

The questions have different wordings. Calling Black Lives Matter a “movement” can mean different answers to “protests”. Agree-disagree questions also risk acquiescence bias.

Two more companies have also asked about actions of protesters, in related questions. This may not be an exhaustive list.

Across several surveys, there was plural opposition to protesters removing statues. The extent of that opposition differs from question wording, order, and response options. Also, there are differences in methods between companies.

Surveys provide estimates, subject to many possible errors. There is a plausible range around each estimate: the true value could be somewhat higher or lower. False claims need correction.

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.

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