Perceived threat of terrorism in Britain has tripled, although few expect to be directly affected
In a climate of near-constant reports of terrorism coming in from the continent and further afield, and the Sunday Times revealing that police are tracking four active terror plots in the UK, the vast majority of Britons say they are braced for a terrorist attack on home soil. As many as 84% of people say that they believe that an attack on British cities and other targets is likely, more than ten times the 8% of people who think an attack is unlikely.
The perceived threat of terrorism has increased steadily over the last six years. When YouGov first asked whether Britons felt the threat of terrorism had increased over the past five years back in July 2010, 25% said they thought it had increased, 17% felt it had decreased, whilst 53% believed it had stayed the same. Today, the number who feel the threat has increased has nearly tripled to 74%, whereas just 1% of people think the threat has decreased.
Despite the high number of people who think an attack is imminent, very few believe that it will actually affect themselves or people they know. Just 12% of people believe that there is a high chance that they, a family member or a friend will be hurt in a terror attack (up 5% since 2010). By contrast, 55% think the chances are low and a further 14% think the chances are almost non-existent.
As separate research for the YouGov-Cambridge Centre shows, in terms of taking the fight to the terrorists the majority of Britons (57%) are in favour of getting rid of ISIS using military force if necessary. A further 13% still want to get rid of ISIS but won’t countenance the use of force, whilst another 11% think that we should accept the existence of ISIS but seek to isolate it.
Opinion is split on whether the government is doing enough to combat Islamic extremism. Four in ten (43%), believe the government should be doing more to combat extremism, against 32% of people who think they are doing as much as can be reasonably expected.
Whilst perception of terrorism is universally gloomy, some groups are gloomier than others. In almost all areas, Leave voters, older people, 2015 Conservative and UKIP voters are more negative about the threat of terrorism and the government’s response to it. For instance, 87% of 65+ year olds think the threat of terrorism has increased, a full 27% more than the number of 18-24 year olds who do. Likewise, 83% Leave voters think the threat has increased against 69% of Remain voters, and 2015 Conservative (84%) and UKIP (83%) voters are significantly more likely to believe the threat has increased than Labour (71%) and Lib Dem voters (74%).