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Public Opinion Research

Sophia is a recognised expert on public opinion. For the past decade, she has designed, conducted and analysed high-quality quantitative and qualitative social research in the UK, across continental Europe, Australia, and the United States. Sophia was the first to pioneer systemic and in-depth public opinion research on foreign policy and continues to lead the development of the British evidence base.

Survey of Public Opinion on Taiwan, AUKUS and the US Elections (January 2024)

This survey captures British public opinion about the whether the AUKUS security pact as become more or less important to the UK's interests in the 2.5 years since its announcement. Despite the turbulent geopolitical developments, it finds that Britons do not meaningfully perceive AUKUS to be connected to otherwise persuasive and securitising narratives. The survey also finds that Britons are very pessimistic about the implications of a Donald Trump re-election on the UK-US 'special relationship'. The most striking aspect of the survey is the new findings regarding support for British interventions in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, revealing surprisingly high levels of support for economic sanctions, trade disruptions, military support and accepting Taiwanese refugees.

Read here.

The State of Public Opinion: Defence and Security (December 2023)

In this article for the UK in a Changing Europe's compendium on the State of Public Opinion, Sophia outlines some of the major shifts in British public opinion on foreign policy, and argues that national security and geopolitics will be important factors at the 2024 General Election due to their integration with key domestic issues, and their role in shaping the 'mood music' of core perceptions of safety and security.

Read here.

Survey of Public Opinion on Allies, the Election and the Middle East (October 2023)

This survey conducted in the aftermath of the October 7th atrocities in Israel finds the British people have been made considerably insecure as a result of the geopolitical developments in the Middle East. It shows that the British people will consider parties' credentials on foreign policy and national security in taking their decision at the General Election next year, and captures the evolution of British perceptions of allies and strategic rivals since July 2020.

Read here.

Survey of Public Opinion on AUKUS, China and Taiwan (March 2023)

This survey finds widespread support for the narratives around the AUKUS security pact, with Britons believing it will make us safer and more competitive, as well as acting as a meaningful deterrent towards Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific. However, it also reveals that the British people do not trust the UK Government to protect them from the threats posed by China. The population is also divided as to whether the UK should send hard power support to defend Taiwan, in the event of a Chinese invasion of the democratic island.

Read here.

Survey of Public Opinion on Ukraine (February 2023)

This survey finds the British people give their full backing to the UK's continued commitment to Ukraine, and remain deeply invested in the conflict. However, they are ambiguous around the Government's motivations for its robust military response, and unsure of how the war in Ukraine can and should be resolved in the coming months or years.

Read here.

2022 Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy & Global Affairs

This survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy finds the UK in a state of transition, with Brexit and the pandemic receding, but the war in Ukraine, tensions in alliances, and the cost-of-living crisis, forging a new period of uncertainty for Britons. Public opinion is becoming an increasingly powerful force in shaping foreign policy decisions in the UK and among our key allies – affecting defence choices, spending, trading relationships and climate commitments.

Read here.

Swing Voters and the Electoral Significance of Foreign Aid: A Study in Conservative-Lib Dem Marginals

This report contributes new evidence to the understanding of public attitudes towards foreign aid, including areas open to both policy and political influence, and highlights the potential electoral significance of international development in marginal seats of current and future importance in the UK’s political landscape. The study is focused on public opinion in 30 seats in England, which are closely contested between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.

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UK Foreign Policy Tribes: Understanding Polarisation and Cohesion on International Affairs

This project segments the UK adult population into four foreign policy ‘tribes’ across the full spectrum of public opinion. The segmentation demonstrates both the important areas of convergence and divergence in public opinion on international affairs, as well as helping to quantify the electoral power of each of the tribes. The findings reveal a deeply polarised nation, but with important pathways to unity and consensus, which must be harnessed as the UK seeks to become ‘a truly Global Britain’.

Read here.

2021 British Foreign Policy Group Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy & Global Affairs

This major research project is the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of UK public opinion on foreign policy. The survey finds that Britons’ foreign policy attitudes are evolving dynamically in the aftermath of Britain’s departure from the European Union and in the wake of the seismic global coronavirus pandemic. Ahead of the imminent publication of the Government’s Integrated Review of the UK’s Defence, Security, Development and Foreign Policy, the report maps a polarised nation, where international attitudes are increasingly cleaving onto domestic social and political identities.

Read here.

The Evolution of Public Opinion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic made clear that further investigations into the dynamic nature of public opinion on geopolitical issues as a result of this seismic public health emergency would be needed. In April and May 2020, the BFPG re-ran the parts of its national survey most vulnerable to influence during the pandemic. The comparative findings from these studies were brought together in a separate paper.

Read here.

Free Trade and Protectionism in the Age of Global Britain

This is the first of a series of papers exploring the social dimensions of the UK’s forthcoming national conversation surrounding the launch of its independent trading policy. This paper provides a literature review of existing public opinion research, including surveys conducted by the British Foreign Policy Group, and the broader evidence base surrounding social attitudes towards trade, globalisation and open societies. 

Read here.

The Divided Continent:

Understanding Europe’s Social Landscape in 2020 and Beyond

This research analysis report sets out the findings of a major survey conducted across 13 EU member states (i.e. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands), which were selected to provide a representative snapshot of the bloc as a whole. This survey was expansive in its scope and unique in its focus on social and cultural issues, as well as politics, leadership and economic security. The data is interpreted through three distinct themes, each of which is likely to play a critical role in Europe’s ‘mood music’ over its coming parliamentary term: nostalgia, intergenerational conflict and democratic legitimacy. 

Read here.

Outrage, Offence and Common Sense:

Public Opinion on Political Correctness in Britain

This paper examined the underlying forces shaping the depth of feeling around political correctness in Britain, including citizens' preferences on the adjudication of language and behaviour, and sought to identify where the 'common ground' lies on this seemingly deeply polarising issue.

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Behind Global Britain:
Public Opinion on the UK's Role in the World

This paper explored the role that citizens' mobility, networks and lived experiences of international
engagement play in their attitudes towards Britain's role in the world, and the formation of their own identity and conception of citizenship.​
Read here.

Out of the Shadows:
Conspiracy Theories on Immigration (UK and US)

This report explored the nexus between the conspiracy theories and narratives promoted in far-right online communities and the growing mistrust of the British and United States populations as a whole towards government on the sensitive issue of immigration.

In collaboration with A/Prof. Joe Uscinski of the University of Miami.

Read here.

At Home in One's Past:
Nostalgia as a Cultural and Political Force in England, France and Germany

This major three-country research project used a variety of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies to explore the rising salience of nostalgic narratives amongst citizens, and how these are being harnessed by politicians, political parties and the media. It considered the dangers posed by nostalgia-driven politics and how the myriad insecurities underpinning citizens' dissatisfaction with the existing and future social, economic and political settlements could be addressed.

Read here.

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