The results of the first wave of our Tracker are fascinating and offer both grounds for concern and optimism. There are four key findings.
Firstly, Brexit is still the most politically divisive issue in Britain. Even after a year of rows over the government’s response to COVID-19, Brexit remains the most polarising issue in British politics.
Secondly, the Brexit debate has produced tribal rivalry. Our data shows that people who express strong opinions on the issue of Brexit show a greater preference for people who lean the same way as them ideologically.
Thirdly, Labour supporters favour censorship more than Conservative voters. Although both groups of voters show a preference for freedom of speech over censorship, there is a statistically significant difference between them on this measure. This is consistent with a recent paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, which suggests that people may become more permissive of censorship as polarisation increases.
Finally, in contrast to the US, where surveys suggest that 65% of Republicans report ‘hardly any’ confidence in the media, more than half (54%) of UK Conservative voters said that they trust information from mainstream news sources. Trust in the media is less of a left-right issue than an engaged disengaged one in Britain. This is good news for anyone who fears that the UK is on the same polarised path as the US, but suggests British society has an entirely different challenge to address.
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