Is left wing or right wing extremism more of a threat to Britain?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
March 11, 2021, 9:56 AM UTC

Right-wing radicals are seen as the more threatening than their left-wing opponents, but Islamic extremists are still seen as posing the biggest threat

It has been reported that the government is ordering an investigation into both left-wing and right-wing extremist groups. The latest YouGov research shows that, of the two, right-wing extremists are more likely to be seen as a threat than their left-wing counterparts.

Some three in ten people (31%) think that right-wing extremists pose a “big threat” while 23% say the same for left-wing extremists.

Among voting groups, respondents typically saw extremist groups at their end of the political spectrum as less of a “big” threat, and those on the opposing end as more serious. For example, Labour (46%) and Lib Dem (49%) voters are twice as likely as Conservatives (22%) to see right-wing extremists as a “big threat”, while the Conservative perception of the threat posed by left-wing extremism is nearly three times greater than that of Labour voters (13%), and 19pts higher than Lib Dem supporters (17%).

While a significant amount of people see these political extremists as threats, at 58% they are more likely to see Jihadists as a “big threat” – around the same proportion who said that Islamic terror groups posed in big threat in a similar 2019 YouGov study.

Approaching a quarter of Britons (24%) also see Irish Republican groups as posing a “big threat” putting them slightly ahead of left-wing extremists (23%) however is this within our margin of error.

While Conservatives see both groups as more of a threat than Labour and Lib Dem supporters, all three groups tend to see the threat posed by left-wing extremism to be around the same as that of Irish Republicans. Labour and Lib Dem voters, for their part, see the threat of right-wing extremists as being equally as serious as that of Jihadists,

How should the government focus its investigation into political extremism?

When it comes to the government’s investigation into political extremism in the UK, half of Britons (54%) think it should focus on both ends of the spectrum equally. Some 8% of people think that left-wing extremism should be the priority for an investigation, but twice as many (16%) think it should focus more heavily on right-wing extremism.

A majority of both Conservative voters (62%) and Lib Dem voters (60%) think the investigation should cover both groups equally, while among Labour supporters this drops to 48% in favour of looking into both equally and 33% thinking it should weigh more heavily on right-wing extremism.

* Please note that this survey was only conducted on the British mainland, i.e. in England, Scotland and Wales, and so does not include Northern Irish respondents.

See full results here