What “royalty loyalty”?

Black and white pictures of a row of tables with many men, women and children of all ages sat at them, with plates and cups and food on the tables. Flags are hung from the red-brick houses which open directly onto the streets.
Street party in Wolverton, Buckinghamshire to celebrate Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding, 1981. (Source: Talk About Wolverton.)

In an article posted yesterday on UnHerd, Paul Embery (a self-proclaimed “Blue Labour thinker” and fire-fighter) claims that a recent poll for the site by FocalData on support for the continuation of the monarchy underlines the schism in British society between “our big urban centres, populated by large numbers of students and the liberal cosmopolitan middle-classes with their globalist outlook” on one hand and an alliance of the old industrial working class and the conservative shires on the other: the former, which tended towards Remain in the 2016 referendum, is less supportive of the monarchy while the latter tends to be more so. A brief look at the map generated by the poll, however, shows no evidence of this alliance; quite the opposite in fact, and nor any correlation with the results of the 2016 referendum. (Note: the sample size of the poll is 21,119, which across 632 constituencies in mainland Britain means 33 to 34 people per constituency — judge for yourself how representative that sample could be. The results they published today from the question about gender identity very clearly show artefacts of the small sample.)

The map shows areas with the strongest support for the monarchy in green and the least in pink, and is rather misleading because some of the lighter-pink areas have greater than 50% support for retaining the monarchy. The general areas with the strongest support include south Essex, Lincolnshire, East Yorkshire, parts of Kent and Sussex, most of Hampshire and Dorset, and the outer suburbs and outlying towns of the West Midlands. The areas with least support are most of Scotland (almost no constituency polls 50% or more support), west and south Wales, plus all of the major and minor cities (by that I mean cities with six-figure populations, not small towns with cathedrals) and university towns (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Norwich, Brighton). While much of the prosperous south shows in deep green, other areas show more tepid support (e.g. Henley, Banbury) as well as the south-west of England. As with the prosperous south, the industrial and ex-industrial north and north Midlands are divided; much of northern Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire polls well above 55% in favour, but areas around Newcastle poll slightly above or below 50%. Those figures from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, however, are still well below the figures recorded in the south-east and Lincolnshire, which are often well above 60%, so this hardly indicates an ‘alliance’ of the shires and working class.

While the top and bottom constituencies in the table mostly coincide with Leave and Remain votes in 2016, in other areas the correlation breaks down. Coventry, Nottingham, Sheffield and Peterborough, for example, all of which voted to leave in 2016, show in deep pink on the map, all of which had a below 50% showing for support. Remain-voting Witney and Newbury both poll well over 50% in favour; Remain-voting Maidenhead and Beaconsfield both show over 60%. In Scotland only one constituency (Banff and Buchan, north of Aberdeen) has greater than 50% for retention; even in most of the border regions where there has been the strongest Tory resurgence, support is at most 50% and mostly lower. While both Birmingham and Wolverhampton voted to leave in 2016, Birmingham shows in this poll as mostly anti-monarchist while Wolverhampton and the Black Country are mostly in favour.

As might be expected, the areas with the biggest show of support for the monarchy are the areas which are provincial, prosperous, mostly white or all three. The areas of England with the weakest tend to be urban areas, particularly those with large minority-ethnic populations, and university towns. The colours on the map are somewhat misleading, because many constituencies with very different shades of green show similar approval rates but different (although only slightly different) disapproval rates but are still, say, 60% in favour of the monarchy, while some of the areas shown as light pink are in fact more than 50% in favour. What the map appears to show is in fact that most of England, with the exception of inner-city London and most of the other major cities, continues to support the retention of the monarchy — nowhere is the ‘disagree’ rate higher than 36% — but in fact there is no answer to this question that allows the person polled to state that they support the monarchy’s dissolution; it only asks whether they are “a strong supporter of the continued reign of the Royal Family”. Those who answered negatively are not necessarily supporters of republicanism; they may simply see no reason to change it now, or find no existing system of republican government satisfactory. The poll does not ask why people do or do not favour the retention of the monarchy, or what (or whom) they do or do not like about it. Support for remaining a monarchy does not equate to loyalty as such.

In short it’s an attempt to reinforce stereotypes of a patriotic, provincial, white heartland that supports the monarchy regardless of class versus a rootless, cosmopolitan, educated metropolitan elite and diverse inner-city that does not. The actual data (for what the data is worth) does not bear this out; far from demonstrating that “we have tipped into a very real cultural war, with competing values and priorities vying for ascendancy”, it shows general support for the monarchy across England and little for change with a few isolated pockets of dissent, with the strongest support in prosperous non-urban areas. There is actually nothing inherently patriotic or British about supporting the monarchy anyway, given that the family has its roots in two German royal families, that many countries in Europe remain monarchies, and that many countries more openly patriotic than the UK are republics. Supporting a republic does not mean being anti-British.

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