The YouGov Study on Spying

Milan DinicResearch Manager
September 30, 2021, 9:20 AM UTC

The YouGov Study on Spying looked at how Britons feel about the UK’s spooks, as well as the everyday spying that we do as individuals.

With the new James Bond movie capturing cinemagoers' imaginations about the antics of secret agents, we asked Britons what they thought of being a spy and whether they would work for the UK intelligence services. The study also investigated how much trust Britons have in their security services, if they believe the government is spying on them and whether the UK should be spying on other countries.

We also looked at how much spying Britons do in their daily lives, whether it is eavesdropping on someone, how good they are at keeping secrets, and whether they have gone as far as to secretly record a conversation.

The summary of the results shown here is based on the study conducted from 16-22 June 2021 on a sample of 2,195 UK adults aged 16 and older.

We have divided the study into the following parts:

Part One: What Britons think about becoming a spy

Part Two: Spying and personality

Part Three: Britons on keeping secrets

Part Four: Trust in UK intelligence and security agencies

Part Five: Should the UK be spying on other countries and if so – which?

Here are the top 7 things we found that show what Britons think about the topic of spying:

  1. For 43% of Britons, being a spy is an honourable job. Around half of Britons (47%) say they would like to work for UK’s security services. Four in ten (43%) think they would make a good spy if trained properly, and another four in ten (41%) say they would not
  2. A quarter (25%) say they actively listen to conversations they overhear and 14% have secretly recorded someone without that person knowing. Overall, four in ten Britons (40%) describe themselves as nosy, with significantly more women (51%) than men (29%) admitting to being nosy
  3. Six in ten (61%) consider themselves to be secretive and half of Britons (49%) have a secret which they intend to take to their grave. Eight in ten (82%) say that if somebody told them a personal secret they wouldn’t share it with anyone. However, 12% would
  4. One in five Britons (22%) say they either don’t have much trust in UK intelligence services (16%) or don’t trust them at all (6%)
  5. Just over half (54%) think the UK is currently safe from terrorism
  6. A fifth of British men (21%) and 13% of British women believe that the security services are spying on them personally
  7. Two-thirds (67%) of Britons say the UK should be spying on other countries. While half (51%) of Conservatives think the UK should be spying on EU countries, this view is shared by a quarter (25%) of Labour supporters

See the full results here and here