Lead data journalist

As the "Tube Chat" campaign terrifies Londoners, YouGov examines public attitudes to talking to a stranger on public transport

Last week a man called Jonathan Dunne caused outrage in London by launching a campaign called "Tube Chat". Dunne – an American – handed out badges that passengers were supposed to wear to indicate that they were up for a conversation, causing a Twitter backlash as horrified Londoners reacted to the prospect of having to talk to their fellow human beings.

Following the incident, YouGov asked people across Britain how they would feel about a normal-seeming person trying to strike up a friendly conversation with them on public transport. At 57%, Scots would be the most pleased for a stranger to strike up a chat on public transport, as would about half of people in the North, Midlands/Wales and the South outside London

Unsurprisingly, given the response to Tube Chat, Londoners were the least likely to be pleased by someone trying to start a conversation with them at just 37%.

Londoners’ reluctance to talk on public transport is not down to hostility – just 6% say a stranger chatting to them would make them irritated, about the same as the rest of the country. Instead, just over a quarter of Londoners (27%) say that a stranger talking to them would make them feel uncomfortable – almost twice as high as in the North, the area of the UK where the fewest people would be uncomfortable (15%).

Part of the reason could be London’s younger age profile. Younger people are the most likely to say that a stranger talking to them on public transport would make them feel uncomfortable (30% for 18-24 year olds and 26% for 25-39 year olds). This dropped to just 18% for those aged between 40 and 59, and 12% for those older than 60.

Nevertheless, there is hope for the Tube Chat campaign. Every single demographic group – even London – contains more people who would be pleased than uncomfortable and/or irritated for someone to start talking to them on public transport.

Photo: Tube Chat

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