Voters divided on "right to know"

William JordanUS Elections Editor
May 24, 2013, 4:35 PM GMT+0

When it comes to the electorate's "right to know" about politicians' private lives, Britons are divided - but it's an issue on which Labour and UKIP voters find common ground

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that the public has a right to know about Boris Johnson’s alleged affair with Helen Macintyre and about the paternity of Macintyre’s child, whom the Daily Mail called "Boris Johnson's baby". Master of the Rolls Lord Justice Dyson said that the child’s privacy must be taken into account, but the core information about the affair and the paternity of the child was “a public interest matter” which reflected on Johnson’s “fitness” for public office.

New YouGov research reveals Britons are split on whether the public has a right to know about the private lives of politicians. A slightly larger proportion (45%) of the public say the public does not have a right to know about a politician’s affair than say the public does have such a right (42%). More narrowly, the public leans towards disclosure when it comes to a child fathered during such an affair; 44% say the public has a right to know about it, while 42% say the public does not.

However, voters of different political stripes and ages swing more decisively to one side of the issue or the other.

Only 34% of Conservative voters and 31% of Lib Dem voters say the public has the right to know about a politician's marital infidelity, and there is little change in support (37% and 31%, respectively) for disclosure rights when a child is born as a result of the affair. In comparison, almost half (49%) of Labour voters and 58% of UKIP voters say the public should get to know about an affair, and slightly more (52% and 60%, respectively) feel the same way about an affair that results in a child.

Additionally, older voters are much more likely to think the public has a "right to know" in both scenarios. Majorities of voters aged over 60 - 51% in the case of an affair only, and 53% in the case of an affair resulting in a child - think the public is entitled to such knowledge, while only three in ten (30%) of voters aged 18 to 24 endorse the public's "right to know" in either case.

The Daily Mail declared the Court of Appeal ruling a “victory for the public’s right to know”.

See the full poll results

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