ID cards update

There are two regular tracking surveys of attitudes toward ID cards – the Home Office commission one, formerly carried out by TNS, now NOP, and the anti-ID card pressure group No2ID commission one, carried out by ICM. Both have released new figures over the last few months, and both show opinion moving against ID cards, albeit, with very different topline figures.

The latest wave of the Home Office data shows 56% approving of the “National Identity Service, including identity cards”, 27% opposed – a net approval of +29, down from +35 in their previous survey.

Meanwhile ICM’s poll for No2ID found 38% thought that ID cards were a good idea, 60% a bad idea – a net approval of -22, down from +2.

So both show opinion moving against ID cards, but overall opinion is vastly different. This is almost certainly down to the different way the questions are asked. In the Home Office polling respondents are first asked why they think the government is introducing ID cards, which will put them in mind of potential benefits of the card, and likely produces a higher approval rating. In No2ID’s polling, the likely cost of an ID card is mentioned in the question, which likely reduces the proportion of people who think it is a good idea.

No2ID, the campaign against ID cards, have commissioned an update to their regular ICM polls on ID cards, which shows no change whatsover in the pretty even split in favour and against the idea (48% support it, 46% opposed).

As I’ve said before, polls commissioned by pressure groups are the ones I’d normally advise people to be the most wary of – the very worst skewed questions and selective approachs to polling tend to turn up in polls commissioned by pressure groups. No2ID are an exception to the rule – they have been asking the same question, using exactly the same wording, carried out in exactly the same manner and – vitally – releasing the data even when, like this month, it doesn’t show anything of particular interest or help to their cause. The question isn’t perfect since they can’t update it to take into account any newer estimates of cost without changing the question, but it does give rock solid trend data on attitudes towards ID cards.

Past polls on ID cards are here.


The latest in the regular series of ICM polls No2ID have commissioned tracking the public’s support for ID cards shows the public continue to be pretty evenly split with 48% thinking ID cards are a good idea, 46% a bad idea. While slightly more people support them than oppose them, those opposed to ID cards tend to hold stronger views – 19% think ID cards are a “very bad idea” with only 9% thinking they are a “very good idea”.

A second question asked about support for a national database of information about individuals and found 35% thought it was a good idea and 63% thought it was a bad idea, suggesting the database behind ID cards is rather less popular than ID cards themselves.

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.

A new ICM poll for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust suggests 50% of people now think ID cards would be a bad idea, with 47% thinking them a good idea.

The wording in the question was the same as used in the series of polls done for No2ID by ICM, so it is directly comparable to previous questions – back in September before the loss of benefit data the same question was showing 54% in favour and only 42% against, though it should be pointed out that the opposition isn’t unprecedented, a poll in July 2007 found a majority against cards.

Despite the drop in support for ID cards and the recent data loss incidents, the public still seem positive about other proposals whee data security would be an issue – 51% said they would be comfortable with the government building a database of everyone in the country including their fingerprints (48% were uncomfortable), 67% were happy with the government collecting travel information on British citizens going in and out of the country (31% were uncomfortable), 53% were comfortable with the idea of the government making a database with information on every child in the UK (45% uncomfortable). Only with the idea of allowing government departments to share information provided to one of them to others were a majority (52%) uncomfortable.