What do the public think should happen with the armed forces?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 11, 2023, 10:04 AM GMT+0

The most common view is they should increase in size, at 41%

In late June, General Sir Time Radford – the second highest ranking NATO general – warned that Britain risks losing its influence within the alliance because its army is too small. The number of regular soldiers has fallen from 97,000 a decade ago to 76,000 now, and is set to decrease further.

Now a new YouGov survey finds that the most common view among the general public is that the size of the armed forces should be increased. Four in ten (45%) say so, including two thirds of Tory voters (67%) although only 27% of Labour voters.

Labour voters are instead most likely to say the armed forces should remain about the same size they are now, with one in three (33%) thinking so, alongside 28% of the wider public. Tory voters are less likely to agree (22%).

One in fourteen Britons think the armed forces should be reduced in size, including 5% who go so far as to say they should be disbanded. This includes 11% of 18-24 year olds and 8% of Labour voters.

Most Britons have a favourable opinion of the armed forces

With 24 June having marked Armed Forces Day, the majority of Britons (58%) have a favourable opinion of the nation’s armed forces. Just 9% have a negative view, while 26% hold a neither positive nor negative opinion.

Young Britons (40% of 18-24 year olds) are the least likely to have a favourable view. One in five have a negative view (19%), compared to 3% of those aged 65 and above.