Assange one year on: unpopular, unwanted

William JordanUS Elections Editor
June 19, 2013, 9:35 AM UTC

Few have a positive impression of Wikileaks' Julian Assange, and most of the public want him arrested and extradited to Sweden

Speaking after talks with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patiño said on Monday that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could continue to take asylum at his country’s Embassy in London. Hague and his Ecuadorian counterpart had met to try to “find a diplomatic solution to the issue of Julian Assange, but no substantive progress was made,” according to the Foreign Office.

Assange went to the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape and sexual assault charges and will be arrested by British police if he tries to leave. He has claimed extradition to Sweden would open him up to further extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

New YouGov research can reveal that a majority (58%) of the British public do want Julian Assange arrested and extradited to Sweden, whether it means waiting for him to leave the embassy and arresting him then – an option which 43% of Britons prefer – or ignoring international law and forcibly entering the Ecuadorian embassy to arrest him – an option preferred by 15% of voters. Eighteen percent and 6%, respectively, would like Assange allowed safe passage to Ecuador or given asylum in Britain.

These results correlate loosely with wider opinions about Assange, who gained notoriety as the director of Wikileaks, an online organization that specialized in publishing secret information – including the 2010 release of a massive cache of U.S. diplomatic “cables” given to Assange by U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who now faces a potential life sentence in the U.S. for charges of “aiding the enemy”.

Only 6% have a very positive impression of Julian Assange while 23% have a fairly positive impression of him. Sixteen percent, on the other hand, have a very negative impression of Assange and 24% have a fairly negative impression. Another 31% don’t know how they feel about him.

YouGov's Opigram system constantly records how those who like and dislike Julian Assange describe him, and finds his fans are most likely to say he "stands up for ordinary people" and is "brave", "intelligent" and "committed". Interestingly, the issue most important to fans of Assange, who through Wikileaks also disseminated the "Iraq War Logs" detailing tens of thousands of attacks by insurgents, is "War" and they are particularly likely to be fans of the dystopian novel Brave New World. People who dislike him, however, find him "arrogant", "self-important" and "smug."

Assange is more popular when it comes to younger Britons, however. Among voters aged 18-24, 40% have either a very positive or a fairly positive impression of Assange, and only 23% have a negative impression of him. In comparison, a majority (52%) of voters aged 60 and above have a negative impression of Assange.

Patiño said that Assange, who will have spent a year in the Ecuadorian embassy as of today, is “strong enough to stay in our embassy for at least five years if he is not granted safe passage”. He added, however, that he thought the British government should eventually let Assange go to Ecuador. 

See the full poll results