The latest BMG poll for the Evening Standard reveals popular public support for Theresa May’s grammar school proposals, especially if it is seen to benefit pupils from poorer backgrounds.
The poll asked a representative sample of Britons two alternative questions in a random order. One question simply asked whether those polled supported May’s proposal for more grammar schools, and the other asked the same question but with a specific qualification that the introduction should ensure that “more people from poorer backgrounds can go to top-performing schools”.
The results found that while two in four (39%) adults say they support May’s proposals for new grammar schools, while one quarter (23%) disagree with the idea (38% said they neither support nor oppose it), support is much greater when the qualification is added.
When the question includes the proposition that the proposed change will ensure that more people from poorer backgrounds can go to top-performing schools, support rises to 48%, while opposition declines to 17% (36% said neither support nor oppose it).
Among younger adults in particular, those aged 18-24, support rises from 31% to 51% once the question has been adjusted to include “people from poorer backgrounds”. Adults in England are most on favour of May’s proposals, with 50% backing it once the additional part of the statement is included.
Across voters for the major political parties, support is strongest amongst Conservative voters at 69%, followed by Ukippers (61%), Liberal Democrats (46%) and then Labour (34%).
The poll also found that around four in ten adults believe Theresa may has had a “good” start in Downing Street whilst 14% think she has made a “bad” start (46% said an “average” start). Unsurprisingly, a majority of Conservative supporters (72%) believe she has made a good start, followed by just 43% of UKIP supporters, two fifths of Lib Dems (40%) and one quarter of Labour supporters (25%).
Dr Michael Turner, Research Director and Head of Polling at BMG Research, said “The results of the latest BMG/Evening Standard poll demonstrate the underlying motives behind public support for May’s proposed expansion of grammar schools.
Although there is good support for the introduction of more grammar schools generally speaking, with 39% in support and just 23% opposed, assuring the public that Britain’s poorest will benefit from their introduction almost doubles net support from +16% to +31% (48% support, 17% oppose).
Though this qualification is universally popular with Britons, with large gains in support for the proposal across a variety of groups, our polling shows that safeguarding increased opportunities for Britain’s poorest children is a particularly important caveat for young people and students, who are split on the issue without the guarantee, but strongly in favour with it.
From a tactical perspective also, these results are quite interesting. It seems that May’s proposal might ruffle a few feathers with the electoral competition, particularly UKIP and the Labour party. For instance, those who voted Labour in 2015, but say they wouldn’t today, are much more supportive of this proposal if children from more deprived backgrounds are ensured better access to good schools, with net support almost tripling from +11% to +31% (53% support, 22% oppose). Among Ukippers too, the expansion of grammar schools is very popular (+49%, 59% support, 10% oppose).”
An article based on these polling results, released by the Evening Standard, can be found here.
Fieldwork dates and methodology can be found here.
A full breakdown of these results can be found here.
For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.
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Lauren Harris – Senior Research Executive