Defence surges to third most important issue facing the UK

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 08, 2022, 9:55 AM GMT+0

This is the highest level recorded since 2017

With all eyes turned east following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “defence and security” has shot up the rankings in for YouGov’s ‘top issues facing the country’ tracker.

Currently, 33% of Britons say defence is one of the top issues facing the country, about the same who say “health” (35%), although still a long way off from “the economy” (50%).

The shift took place last week, when concern surged to 32% from 12% the prior week. These figures are the highest that YouGov has recorded for defence since the London Bridge attack in June 2017, when 41% of people said defence and security was a top issue.

For Conservative voters, defence is the second highest issue facing the country, at 48%. This puts it behind the economy still at 57%, but ahead of not only health (30%) but also immigration (41%).

Among Labour voters, defence is only the sixth most important issue, at 21% (although this is still elevated compared to the 5% it was before the invasion). Labour voters are more concerned about the economy (47%), health (45%), the environment (38%), Britain leaving the EU (28%) and housing (24%).

Support for NATO membership and maintaining the nuclear deterrent also rise following Ukraine invasion

With Vladimir Putin having put his nuclear forces on a higher alert in a clear warning to the West, our tracker on attitudes to the Trident nuclear missile system shows increased support for replacing it with an equally powerful system. Since late 2019 between 32-36% of people were in favour of a like-for-like replacement for Trident; following the Russian invasion of Ukraine that figure has since risen to 45%. Fewer people now want to see Britain give up nuclear weapons (18%, from 23% in the previous poll in September 2021).

Support for Britain's membership of NATO has increased from 68% in September to 79% now, which includes an increase in "strongly support" from 33% to 50%. Likewise, belief that NATO membership is important for Britain's defence has risen from 67% to 80%.

Confidence that NATO members would come to our aid has risen from 48% to 67%, and willingness to go to the aid of other NATO members has risen from 63% to 74%.

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