Snap poll: public split on whether police should have allowed Sarah Everard vigil to take place

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 15, 2021, 9:48 AM UTC

Few think Cressida Dick should resign over police handling of vigil

On Saturday evening Metropolitan Police officers made national news by dispersing a vigil to the murdered Sarah Everard in Clapham Common. An attempt to hold an official vigil had been cancelled following discussions between organisers and police authorities, but an unofficial gathering occurred regardless.

Police are under fire for what is seen as a heavy-handed response to a peaceful gathering, with several arrests being made.

Now a new YouGov snap poll, conducted from Sunday to Monday morning, shows that Britons are split on whether police should have allowed the vigil to take place, with 40% saying they should have and 43% saying they should not.

As with the wider pubic, women are split on the vigil, with 42% saying it should have been allowed to go ahead and 39% saying it should not. Men, however, say the vigil shouldn’t have been allowed by 47% to 38%.

The generations are much more at odds on the matter. The older Britons are, the less likely they are to think the vigil should have been allowed. Half of 18-24 year olds (52%) say police should have approved the vigil, with only 24% disagreeing. Among those aged 50 and over, however, 52-55% say the police were right not to allow the vigil, with just 32-34% thinking it should have gone ahead.

Conservative and Labour voters are also at odds: Tories say it should not have been allowed by 61% to 28%, while Labour say the opposite with 28% saying it’s shouldn’t have been allowed and 57% saying it should.

The public are opposed to allowing protests in general during the pandemic

It also appears that many in the public are making an exception for the Everard vigil. The police response to the gathering has prompted discussion about the broader right to protest during lockdown, but a majority of the British public tend to think it is generally right that protests, vigils and marches should not be allowed during the pandemic.

Six in ten Britons (59%) say that it is right that such gatherings do not take place during the current pandemic, compared to 26% of Britons who disagree.

On this principle there is no difference in opinion between men and women. There continue to be, however, political and generational differences. Labour voters are divided 41%/41% on the dilemma, while Tories say protests shouldn’t be allowed for now by 78% to 14%. The youngest Britons – those aged 18-24 year olds – back a continued right to protest by 44% to 35%, but all other age groups are opposed by wide margins.

Cressida Dick should not resign, say Britons

Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has said she does not intend to resign over the incident, despite her boss – mayor of London Sadiq Khan – saying he was not satisfied with her explanation of police actions and calling for an investigation into the goings on.

The British public tends to think Dick should remain in post. By two to one Britons say that she should not resign (47%), compared to 23% who think she should.

Labour voters are split 32/35% on the Commissioner’s resignation, while approaching two thirds of Conservatives (63%) say she should stay in her role.

Similarly, 18-24 year old Britons are split 34/30% on the police chief’s future, while all other age groups tend to back her remaining. Both men and women think Dick should keep her job.

Londoners also say that the commissioner of the capital’s police force should stay, by 42% to 27%.

See the results here, here and here