YouGov have carried out a series of questions on civil liberties for the Economist – full tables here, asking respondents whether a series of issues seen as an encroachment on civil liberties are, on balance, a good or bad thing. Widespread CCTV met with the most support – 74% thought this was a broadly good thing, with 22% thinking it a bad thing.

A smaller majority (55%) supported a centralised database of everyone’s health records, with 38% opposed. Opinion was even more evenly divided on the issue of ID cards and the biometic database that backs them up – 48% thought they were a good idea, 45% that they would be an unjustified invasion of privacy.

On the breadth of the DNA database public opinion a majority of people supporting the DNA database extending to eventually include the whole population, but only a bare majority of 51%, with a very substantial minority of 43% thinking only convicted criminals should have their DNA stored.

Finally YouGov asked about 42 day detention and David Davis’s by-election. 61% of people supported the police being able to detain suspected terrorists for up to six weeks before charging or releasing them, 33% thought 6 weeks would be far too long. This division of support seems pretty consistent amongst polls asking questions on whether people support or oppose the measure.

Asked about Davis’s stand, 49% of people thought he was right in his concerns over civil liberties, with 38% disagreeing with him – so while on the direct issue of 42 days people clearly don’t back him, once things like national databases and ID cards are thrown into the mix more people agree with him. However, of that 49% who back him, only 23% think things would actually be different were he home secretary, 26% think he would be just as bad.

Conservativehome meanwhile have another poll result from YouGov asking about the Davis by-election: 61% of respondents thought that Labour should have put a candidate up at the by-election, including a plurality (48%) of Labour voters.

8 Responses to “YouGov on civil liberties and Davis”

  1. Those of us who do not trust the motives of Government in their observing, recording and data gathering remain in the minority – but it is a bigger minority than I would have expected. Even on CCTV which is widely seen as a ‘good thing’ over 20% are opposed.

    It is also evident (I think) that when the concerns are raised – in that debate David Davis has called for and tried to prompt – public opinion becomes less favourable to intrusion.

  2. Is it possible that some people might think that Davis was right to take a stand, without necessarily agreeing with him?
    I am unsure of my own position, because I don’t trust the government and police to apply the proposed law sensibly. (remember the Cenotaph lady?)
    Nevertheless, I agree with and admire Davis for making his stand. I don’t imagine I am alone in this view, and this could explain why Davis has greater support than you would expect from the majority view on 42 days itself.

  3. Pete – yep, the question is slightly abiguous. It could be that people picked one of the “he is right” options thinking Davis was right in his concern over civil liberties (that’s how I’d read the question), but they could alternately have read it as meaning “he is right” to resign and make the stand.

  4. I agree with the conclusions Anthony has drawn from the poll but am disappointed that on the 42 day issue there was no question relating to an alternative approach. May be this was because it was thought few people would know of one. However I suggest the option of post charge questionning (which I think I’m correct in saying David Davis has suppported) is one where significantly more support would be found. Indeed this may even become a realistic option if the anticipated battle between the Lords and Commons drags on and is in danger of producing a stalemate. Even this Government may wish to have something effective on the Statute Book soon rather than rely on the Parliament Act and the delay inherent in its use.

  5. Sorry to make the elitist point, but I think amongst the politically informed, and – frankly – smarter people meet more generally, oppsotion to civili liberties trmpling invasive ideas like the DNA database, ID cards, and 42 day detention, is much higher than the national average.

    The arguments against the big brother state are often principled anc complex, whereas their opposing argments are dead simple.

  6. I can only assume it was due to contractual issues that this blog was released over a day after The Economist was published. Not sure if the article is the result of accurate reporting or an illiberal slant that has seeped into the newspapers reportage since the 2005 GE.

    The article is not getting much of a sympathetic response on either. I wonder what the publications international readership makes of this article…? Maybe the next few weeks will tell….

  7. The average ” man in the street “has little knowledge or interest in complex ideas of security ,confidentiality and sharing of data etc.
    Those of us who are more cynical, aware and are nervous of what Government may do with the data in the future are less likely to trust in ” authority”. The retention of DNA samples of those not convicted of an offense is a large step too far in my opinion.Unfortunately it is the Sun and Mail readership who are in the ” blind” majority.David Davis is right to be concerned.

  8. Anthony, if you want a pedant to vet your poll questions, and come up with all possible misinterpretations, I’m your man. Asperger’s syndrome is useful sometimes.
    Low fees and satisfaction guaranteed :)