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.

19 Responses to “Opposition to ID cards reaches 50%”

  1. ID cards are just another way for the govenment to spy on the 97% or so of people who stick by the law and do not break it!. if however the use of ID cards is to fish out the 3% or so of people who do break the law then would it not be a better idea to microchip people who are a danger to the public such as rapist’s, muggers, drug dealers, and murders and then give ID cards to the convicts who poss less of a danger to the public and ask them to alway have an ID card on them when stopped by the law or other people such as the probation service.

  2. Glas to see the change in the polls. I’m guessing the data loss scandals have done it…

    The thing I always like about these debates is when someone says ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’?

    IMHO everyone has something to hide, even if it minor. How many people have been caught drunk or with drugs and let off my police, only to go on and be useful members of society. I can see a situation where all such little things are swiped onto the chip as records of incident in a way in which they can’t be now….

    The other point is that a civilized society must leave room for mild subversion. We cannot assume that the government is always going to be (or is) benign… ID cards could just be another unwelcome element of control..

  3. Alasdair
    Your first para…I agree but I am surprised the data losses haven’t had a greater impact on public opinion than that indicated in this poll.

  4. Only 50%. Too low.

  5. I think a lot of the British public are now resigned to the fact that we will end up with ID cards – it will be rushed through in the next 2 years as will other laws before Labour leave office – we all seem resigned to the closing pages of this “nanny state” government that will introduce whatever it can as fast as it can.

    Just a pity that they won the last election – that would have saved on a few of the recent new “nanny state” laws that have been introduced to take away our rights to choose !

  6. I am also surprised that the effect of the data loss stories hasn’t been greater. Have people forgotten already?

    Also interesting to see that there is very little difference in views by social group. I thought there might have been.

  7. I get the impression that the opinion polls give rise to the policy. If support drops through the floor, the policy will follow.

    Alasdair – I agree with your line on “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. Who defines what does and what doesn’t amount to “something”? Similarly, this word “fear”. I wouldn’t be afraid, just a little more uncomfortable, and that’s enough for me to be in the “no” camp for now.

  8. Along with everyone else around my age I had an ID card (and still remember the number). I realise that a system involving computerised records and biometric data is potentially a much more powerful tool – but I cannot see what law-abiding citizens have to fear from it.

    We can be sure that organised criminals and terrorist groups will make full use of the advances in data theft, transmission, storage and processing – and there are good arguments for enabling the state (our state) to be able to use technology as effectively as possible against them, for our protection.

    With the mass of information already (necessarily) stored on us for passports, tax purposes, driving licences etc. an ID card would hardly be a quantum leap in the information that would already be easily available to a “less benign” government.

    The main danger is from cock-ups (which will always happen from time to time with or without ID cards), not from an imaginary totalitarian future government. That’s just scare tactics based on fantasy, not a serious reason for opposing ID cards.

  9. Hi JohnH. Lets not forget that it wasn’t so long ago that CND where on the watch list… or that France bombed a Greenpeace ship…

    ID cards, particularly if they come to include biometrics and radio chips will simply make it easier to keep tabs on people, whoever they are..

  10. Alasdaire Cameron: “ID cards, particularly if they come to include biometrics and radio chips will simply make it easier to keep tabs on people, whoever they are.”

    Yes, whoever they are – including those who really need us to keep tabs on them. As technology advances the “tabs” must keep up.

    And as you say, governments have always kept a watch on various groups who most of us would regard as offering no threat. But unless any law is broken it’s useless information. Just the price we must be prepared to pay for necessary vigilance . (As we must put up with being often observed on CTV as the price for spotting the occasional potential criminal action – as in the current murder trial).

  11. ‘But unless any law is broken it’s useless information’.

    Not necessarily true. The police already use anti-terror legislation pre-emptively to stop legal non-violent protests (and I’m not talking about invading runways). We were told this would not happen when the legislation was passed.

    Also, and of more concern, is the ease with which people with minor misdemeanors in their past who may disagree with those in power will be able to be vitimised. An example, at a recent rather boring demonstration a friend of mine was asked for his ID. Being in the UK he said he didn’t have any. End of story. Now what would have happened if he had ID? Probably not much, but maybe they would have recorded that he was at demonstration X, so the next time he went to a demo he might be pre-emptively stopped. That might sound paranoid, but this sort of thing already happens.. ID cards just make it easier.

    I agree we need anti-terrorism measures etc., but I don;t see how they will deter a suicide bomber. They usually carry their passports anyway..

    Anyway, I wil try to stop now, as this does not rally relate to the poll. Sorry everyone.

  12. “Sorry everyone”. Maybe there’s just you and me :) But I have some sympathy with what you said – it’s a bit creepy to think of being too closely “supervised”. But I think it’s probably a price worth paying. OK I’ll stop too!

  13. I wonder if this is influenced by a general mistrust of government and politicians in general, in the light of various uncomfortable revelations about politicians and money?

  14. I think people are genuinely starting to grow tired of centralized, big government policies, this could be a reflection of that?

  15. Mike Richardson: I don’t think Labour can ram this through before the next general election. Besides the fact they’ve already retreated from saying they will and are already saying they won’t, they couldn’t get it through the Lords without using the Parliament Act. Something an unpopular government wouldn’t do for what is becoming an unpopular policy right before the election.

  16. I suspect people are waking up to the big brother systems underlying the ID scheme (and other Government proposals). It is not the actual card which is the problem for many people – after all most of us have passports and driving licences – but underlying systems which will be hugely expensive and unfit for purpose, leaving aside their human rights implications. I make these points because they are not immediately obvious, so I predict that as the ID card scheme is debated support for it, as measured by opinion polls, will fall steadily.

  17. JohnH

    “Nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide”
    “Porbably a price worth paying” ?

    The first is a bully’s approach, while the second is only true if you sincerely believe the system will be used solely to “identify” real crooks and security threats. But then why do we need a vast bureaucracy to monitor everyone in the contrary ?

    Grammar apart, I am inclined to agree with Stewart Gregory.

    The problem for the government is that ID cards have been touted as a panacea for a whole host of problems which may look superficially plausible but don’t bear close scrutiny. They have ended up looking like a solution searching for a problem to cure.

    The more the matter gets debated, the more the costs (and dangers) are highlighted, and the benefits discounted. This policy will die a lingering death – somewhat like the government.

    MIKE R – fear not. I agree with Philip Thompson, in that Brown will not expend valauble political capital to force this through in the run-up to an election – unless the polls suddenly start showing 60%+ support for introduction of ID cards.

  18. One begins to suspect that the “ID Card” debate is merely a smokescreen, hiding the veritable tidal wave of nationwide scale data bases being built by this government.

    This one -disclosed in today’s Times- is certainly worthy of the sort of debate “ID Cards” are getting, and has enormous implications -but it seems it will simply be installed without anyone knowing about it.-Unless you read the Times today!


  19. For all those who think it can be stopped let me point out that the Act has been passed and the Identity and Passport Service (part of the Home Office) is actively proceeding with the programme to issue the cards. I thought that it could be a good idea if properly handled and used to assist in detecting crime (and benefit fraud etc)as the rest of us have ‘nothing to hide’. But we DO ALL HAVE something to hide – our identities, from all those who wish to use them for criminal purposes.
    The IPS (above) have sent me a long letter explaining all about it, except the particular issues I raised. Security is top of that list. I put it to them that as they cannot guarantee the safety of our information then they might as well publish the lot on the internet to avoid all those embarrassing ‘lessons will be learnt…’ announcements. I am still waiting to find out whether or not they are going to use 128 bit encryption (the best available at present) and who will control the release of any information and in what form. My overall impression is that this government has totally failed to consider the downside of the cards. And then there is the ‘minor’ matter of how they expect all those people who cannot afford to heat their homes properly are going to pay the exorbitant cost!