Britons broadly supportive of Public Order Bill's measures to criminalise certain forms of protest

Frazer KnowlesPolitical Researcher
November 09, 2022, 11:09 AM GMT+0

But few have confidence it will achieve its desired impact

Amid the turbulence in what would be Liz’s Truss’s final full week as Prime Minister, a significant piece of legislation passed through the House of Commons. The controversial Public Order Bill, which aims to crack down on disruptive protests, was passed by MPs by 276 votes to 231 and is now being read in the House of Lords.

The bill passes amid a new wave of climate protests, conducted largely by the activist group Just Stop Oil, which has seen numerous roads blocked as well as buildings and famous works of art being vandalised in recent weeks.

New YouGov data finds that several of the provisions of the Public Order Bill are broadly supported by the public. There is strong support for criminalising the obstruction of major transport works (66%), tunnelling (61%) and ‘locking on’ (58%), whilst the extension of stop and search powers and the creation of new preventative court order targeting repeated offenders are also well received (51% and 60% support, respectively).

However, opinion is divided across party lines. Conservative voters are the most supportive, with 76-89% supporting each proposed policy. In contrast, Labour voters are more split, but show the greatest opposition to the extension of stop and search powers (58%) and making ‘locking-on’ a criminal offence (52%).

Though Britons are generally supportive of these provisions of the Public Order Bill, they are less confident that the bill will achieve its desired impact. Just 27% think the bill will be effective in reducing the number of disruptive protests going forward, compared to 51% who think the measures will not be effective.

Nevertheless, it is evident is that the public are more concerned that a tougher stance is taken on disruptive protests, than they are that the measures actually work in practice. Even among those who don’t believe the bill will be effective, support outweighs opposition on every measure except for the extension of stop and search powers.

Britons are opposed to the actions of Just Stop Oil

The public support for the Public Order Bill provisions is matched by a strong opposition towards the recent actions of Just Stop Oil. Just one in five (21%) are supportive of the protesters’ actions, compared to 64% who are opposed.

Again, there are large partisan differences on this issue. Nine in ten (91%) Conservative voters are opposed to the protesters’ actions compared to just 5% who are supportive. In contrast, Labour voters are more evenly split, with 43% showing support for the protesters’ actions, compared to 44% who oppose.

See full results here

Picture: Getty

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