1 in 5 says census 'too intrusive'

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 15, 2011, 11:43 PM GMT+0

Around one in five people thinks that the questions on this year’s census are too intrusive, although the majority of the British public does not believe that the next census should be scrapped, our poll for the Sunday Times has found.

  • 22% say that this year’s census questions are ‘too intrusive’
  • While 43% disagree
  • There is support for the census in general though, as 58% feel that the next census after this year’s one, due in 2021, ‘should not be scrapped’
  • 25% disagree and think it ‘should be scrapped’
  • A sizeable remainder, 35%, says that they don’t know – perhaps some of them haven’t opened their census envelope yet?

Insightful or intrusive?

The first ‘modern’ census in Britain started in 1801, and has been taken every ten years since, disrupted only for a short period during World War II. In 1841, censuses started measuring individuals by household and occupation – and it is this system which continues today. Census information, which includes data on nationality, religious faith and marital status, remains private for 100 years, after which it is released into the public domain. This makes it extremely useful for historians or people trying to track their personal history.

However, the need for censuses in their current form has been disputed in recent years, and the Government has suggested that the 2011 census could be the last of its kind, saying that the information could be gathered in a more effective way from other existing sources. The nature of the census questions have also been criticised, as they require people to state who slept in their house on the night of 27th March, as well as asking for information on householders’ qualifications, occupations, or even the type of central heating they use.

A Cabinet Office spokesman told the BBC: ‘Work began some time ago to explore alternatives to the conventional census model after 2011’.

See the survey details and full results