- 9 percentage point rise in the number of Britons against arming police routinely since the Paris attacks (6 point fall in support for)
- Half public (47%) feel police not adequately prepared for terrorist attack
Following the news that more armed police will now be posted at some of London’s biggest landmarks in response to recent terrorist attacks across Europe, a BMG poll finds that almost half of the British population believe that the police and security forces are ill-prepared for such an attack. However, people remain divided as to whether routinely arming police officers is the right solution.
In the aftermath of several terrorist-related attacks in Europe recently, just one quarter (26%) of respondents feel that the British security forces are suitably prepared for such incidents in the UK, compared to 47% who feel that they are ill-prepared.
BMG asked a very similar question following the Paris attacks in November 2015: exactly the same proportion of respondents (26%) felt that security forces are adequately prepared, but there has been a fall of around 4% in those who felt that police were not adequately armed (47% in 2015).
Regional differences in faith in security forces
Londoners and respondents in the South East were the most positive about Britain’s current security provisions, with 34% and 37% respectively suggesting that Britain is prepared for a terrorist attack. However, there is no region where positive opinion outweighs negative, suggesting that the threat of an imminent terrorist attack and Britain’s immediate response is an issue that concerns many, regardless of where they live across the UK. Greatest concern was shown in the East Midlands (57%).
No majority for arming police forces
Despite such concern, there is no overwhelming support for increasing the amount of weapon-carrying police, with respondents divided on whether British police officers should be routinely armed. Just over two in five (42%) were in favour and a similar amount (43%) against.
This results represent a substantial shift in public opinion compared to the last time BMG polled the public on this question: shortly after the Paris attacks in December 2015 nearly half of Britons (48%) said that they supported routine arming of police compared to just 34% who were against such a notion.
The polling suggests a 9 percentage point rise in the number of Britons who are against arming police routinely since the Paris attacks, and a 6 point fall in support.
How support breaks down…
Men prove to be much more in favour of such a measure, with almost half (47%) agreeing that they should be armed, compared to just 38% of women.
Among people that voted either Labour or Conservative, an equal proportion (41%) said that police officers should be routinely armed. However, significantly larger proportion of UKIP voters supported the measure (59%). Liberal Democrats were some of the least supportive, with just three in every ten (30%) voters in favour of police carrying guns on the street.
Curiously, despite being most positive about the ability of the security forces to respond to an attack, Londoners are the second-most in favour of routinely arming the UK’s police force (46%); only those from the East Midlands gave stronger support (52%). This suggests, perhaps, that Londoners support a routinely armed police force more generally, rather than specifically in response to the threat of a terrorist attack (readers should note that low base sizes across regions and other sub-groups means there is less certainty with the accuracy of reported estimates).
Data tables containing a breakdown of these results can be found here.
Fieldwork information and methodology can be found here.
For any other results from our polling series, please feel free to get in touch with BMG by email or phone.
0121 333 6006
Jemma Conner – Junior Research Executive – BMG Research
Dr Michael Turner – Research Director – BMG Research