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The Royal Polling Numbers

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If we're measuring success in terms of opinion poll findings, there can be little doubt that The Palace goes into this weekend's Jubilee celebrations in rude health. Ipsos MORI's Diamond Jubilee poll finds 80% support for Britain remaining a monarchy. Just 13% want to see a republic, which is the lowest level we've recorded in a series of polls going back 20 years. Even during the Royal Family's stickiest patches - including at the time of Diana's death - there has been no noticeable weakening in the public's support for the monarchy itself.

By any standards, these are polling numbers to die for. And of course, they contrast sharply with the low esteem in which the public hold our politicians.

Last year's Royal Wedding celebrations have had a positive and lasting impact. In the run-up to the ceremony we saw coverage in both the British and foreign media on how the public "weren't interested" and were going to "ignore the whole thing". The reality was anything but. Some 30 million watched on TV, very much in line with royal weddings, moon landings and iconic football matches of the past. And the message we got from our research over that weekend was loud and clear: people were, often against their own expectations, drawn into the whole event, and it served to make them even more convinced that the monarchy is here to stay.

Support for the principle of having a monarchy is far from being a recent phenomenon. It has been a consistent feature of our polling for two decades. Even at the time of Diana's death, the proportion favouring a republic struggled to break the 20% barrier.

This is not to say that public has been reluctant to criticise the Royal Family, and we saw this very clearly during the difficult years of the 1990s. Our polling (and there were many, many polls on the royals during this period) consistently showed a real sense of unease about the relationship between Charles and Camilla. In 1994, in a first for our company, we were commissioned by the Mail on Sunday to survey the views of vicars, such were the constitutional questions about divorce and what it meant for Charles's future status as Head of the Church of England. (That particular survey showed a distinct lack of consensus among the clergy.) And, by the time of Diana's death, the proportion of Britons saying the monarchy would still exist "50 years from now" had fallen to the low 30s, with many saying it wouldn't last the decade.

Scroll forward from 1997 to our April 2011 eve-of-wedding poll, and these figures are transformed, with 56% expecting to see a monarchy in place in 50 years' time. From what often felt like an uneasy mix of old and new, we now see a much more powerful blend - and it's one which the public is increasingly comfortable with. This applies whether people are young, or old, live in the north or south, and cuts across any political allegiances.

What happens next? Well, where the public has no settled view is on the question of the succession. Over the last year we've seen an increase in the number saying that Charles should not give up his right to the throne (40% now say he should, 51% say he shouldn't, in contrast to a dead heat 12 months ago). But there is little sign that the public have completely made up their minds on this question. Young people favour moving straight to William, by a 57% to 36% margin, and Charles is rather less popular among the C2DE social classes than he is among ABC1s. So, just as with a successful soap opera, while the long term prospects for the institution look assured, expect to see the popularity of the key players continue to ebb and flow.


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Ipsos MORI's archive of public opinion findings on the monarchy can be found here: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2423/Royal-FamilyMonarchy-Trends-Index-Page.aspx