Pornography protection

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
December 22, 2010, 10:54 PM GMT+0

The idea discussed by the Government this week that major internet service providers could filter out pornographic websites unless users opted ‘in’ to them is broadly popular with the public, but most think that the system would be easily circumvented by tech savvy users. Women are more amenable to the idea, as are older people.

  • 63% of people support the idea of filtering the internet to block pornography, 22% are opposed
  • But only 16% think it would be effective at blocking pornography
  • The majority (60%) thinks that in practice, any block would be relatively easy for people with technical ability to get round
  • 49% of people we surveyed would opt in to having their internet access filtered
  • 30% would opt out

Opt in or opt out?

People were more evenly divided over whether such a filter should be ‘opt out’ (that is, it would apply to all users unless they opted out), and ‘opt in’ (that is, people's internet would only be filtered if they requested it).

  • 45% supported the ‘opt out’ plan that the Government has suggested
  • 38% supported the ‘opt in’ alternative.
  • Asked if they themselves would opt in or out of having their own home internet access filtered, 49% of YouGov's respondents said they would want their service filtered
  • 30% said they would not (YouGov's surveys are conducted online, so can't reflect the views of people who don't presently have internet access on this question).

Attitudes of age and gender

There were very sharp age and gender differences in attitudes towards blocking pornography on the internet.

  • Among women support for the idea was overwhelming, with 79% in support and only 8% opposed.
  • Among men opinion was rather more evenly divided - 46% supported the idea, but 37% were opposed.
  • When it came to attitudes towards their own internet connection, a substantial majority of women (68%) would want their internet service filtered and only 14% said they would prefer an opt out system
  • In comparison, 46% of men say they would opt out of the filter, with only 29% saying they would opt for an automatically filtered service.

There was a similar contrast between old and young respondents.

  • People under 25 were evenly divided over whether a filter was a good or bad idea with 39% supporting it and 36% opposing it
  • People over 60 are overwhelmingly supportive, with 79% in favour of a filter
  • In the same way, under 25s would tend to opt out of filtering on their own internet (42%) connection, while a hefty majority of over 60s (66%) would accept automatic filtering.

See the survey details and full results here