Britons tend to support allowing anti-abortion student societies, despite backlash

Beth MannJunior Research Executive
October 12, 2021, 8:56 AM UTC

More Britons do oppose them, however, than other kinds of student groups

Last week the University of Exeter’s Student Guild received a backlash from the student body after allowing and funding a pro-life/anti-abortion society, Exeter Students For Life (ESFL), on its campus. Fellow student society SAFESEXE, an anti-rape culture, pro-consent education initiative, set up an open letter with the aim of ceasing accreditation and funding of ESFL, which has now received nearly 2,500 signatures. Since this reaction, other universities have experienced similar conflict, with students condemning a pro-life society at Oxford university’s Freshers’ Fair.

Following the backlash, YouGov asked what the public thinks about allowing student societies of this nature at universities, with the results showing Britons tend to support allowing anti-abortion societies by 47% to 29%. This overall finding remains consistent across almost all demographic measures.

However, of the five types of societies we asked about, anti-abortion societies received the most opposition, with three in ten respondents (29%) saying they should not be allowed. This compares to 14% saying LGBTQI+ societies and 16% saying feminist societies shouldn’t be allowed. One in five also say pro-choice (21%) and men’s rights (18%) societies should not be permitted.

The youngest age group – 18-24 year olds – show the lowest levels of support for allowing anti-abortion societies at universities, with only 37% saying they should be allowed (compared to 39% saying they shouldn’t). Older age groups are more permissive: 25-49 year olds say the existence of such societies should be allowed by 47% to 30%, with backing rising to 55% vs 23% among 50-64 year olds and 45% vs 27% of those aged 65 and above.

Labour voters (56%) are more likely than Conservative voters (44%) to say the students should be allowed an anti-abortion society, although this is because Conservatives are more likely to respond “don’t know” than to be more opposed to such societies. However, again out of all types of societies, anti-abortion groups witnesses the lowest levels of acceptance, with 30% of Conservative and 29% of Labour voters saying they should not be allowed.  

There are no significant gender differences in opinion on the matter of anti-abortion societies. However, men are noticeably more likely than women to be opposed to LGBTQI+ societies (by 19% to 9%) and feminist societies (by 21% to 11%).

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / BeckyEdmunds

See the full results here