Barely noticed amongst the fuss over the Labour leadership*, there were some more figures from Populus’s monthly poll in Tuesday’s Times. There was sharp disagreement with the statement that increased security at airports was an over-reaction (a net agreement of minus 40). There was also another question on passenger profiling – this time only 33% of people agreed that “Security checks at airports should be particularly focused on people who appear to be from the same ethnic or religious background as previous terrorists, rather than treating everyone as if they represent an equal risk”. Questions on passenger profiling do seem to be producing some sharply contrasting results – if you specifically mention using passenger profiling along with random searches of other passengers it is very popular – if you don’t add that sort of qualification it is not popular at all.

On Britain’s wider foreign policy, 73% of people agreed that Britain’s recent foriegn policy had made Britain more likely to be a target of terrorism (in a question that specifically cited Iraq and Lebanon). However, 63% of people said that if Britain did change her foreign policy terrorists would just find another excuse to target us. On the surface these are contradictory, though I suppose they can be reconciled as people believing that Britain would be a terrorist target regardless, but that we would be slightly less of a terrorist target with a different foreign policy.

Asked if Britain should change her foreign policy to make us less of a terrorist target, 62% of people agreed. This is in contrast to the recent YouGov poll for the Spectator and the follow-on poll I published here last month, which showed either strong support for a more aggressive foreign policy or at least a plurality in favour of a more agressive, rather than a concilatory approach. I think the difference is that the YouGov poll dealt in generalities – “aggressive” or “concilatory” while Populus have given very specific examples – should Britain distance herself from the USA, criticise Israel more and set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq? Polls in recent months and years have shown all these things to have public support. The position seems to be that much of the public support an aggressive foreign policy response to terrorism in theory, but when asked about the specifics are not so gung-ho.

*No doubt the phone calls, websites and laptops are already collecting data for polls on the Labour leadership and Blair’s future as we speak, expect the first polls on it on Friday or over the weekend.


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