Geopolitics

With Charles on the Throne, Many Younger Britons Say It’s Time to Move On From the Monarchy

A role for the crown is still the dominant position in the U.K., but there’s a stark age gap

Photograph King Charles III saluting the coffin carrying Queen Elizabeth II
King Charles III salutes as the bearer party on Wednesday carry the coffin of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, into Westminster Hall, London, where it will lie in state ahead of her funeral next week. (Danny Lawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed nearly universal approval among her subjects, according to a new Morning Consult survey fielded in the wake of her passing, but support for the monarchy’s continuing role in British government is considerably lower among younger people, Londoners and those outside England, suggesting the United Kingdom’s relationship with the House of Windsor may be changing.

Young Britons, Londoners and Non-English Less Likely to Support a Continued Monarchy
Shares of U.K. respondents who said…

Survey conducted Sept. 12-14, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 adults in the United Kingdom, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Age and geography are key factors in support for the monarchy

  • British adults overwhelmingly support a continued role for the crown in their government, with just 1 in 4 saying it should be phased out. Folks who remember the days when the sun never set on the British Empire are significantly more supportive, with 79% ages 65 and up advocating a continued government role for the monarchy, compared with just 50% of those ages 18-34.
  • British seniors (60%) are also nearly twice as likely as those younger counterparts (34%)  to say it is “very important” to have a monarchy.
  • In London — where more than 40% of residents are nonwhite or of mixed ethnicity, with many being members of diasporic communities of nations once subjected to British imperialism — 37% of respondents said the monarchy should be phased out. A 53% majority still support the status quo, though.
  • Taken together, people in Scotland and Northern Ireland were similarly less supportive of the monarchy, with 55% supporting the status quo and 35% favoring a diminished role. Welsh respondents were grouped with respondents from the East of England and the Midlands, and that group is 7 percentage points less likely to support the status quo compared with their peers in northern and southern England.

Britons hold Elizabeth’s tenure in high regard

When Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926, the British Empire was arguably at the height of its power, ruling over nearly a third of the world’s landmass and a quarter of its population after centuries of warfare and colonization. By the time she was coronated 27 years later, the empire was rapidly collapsing, with India and Pakistan and Israel already independent and British troops attempting to suppress liberation movements in Kenya and British Malaya. Meanwhile, Gamal Abdel Nasr’s coup in Egypt threatened the Suez Canal, the keystone of Britain’s thalassocracy. 

Elizabeth’s reign would coincide with waning U.K. power over every remaining possession save a few small islands and exclaves scattered around the globe, with more and more former subjects dissociating from the British Commonwealth right up to the end.

Overseeing the disentanglement of an empire is an unenviable fate for any monarch, but more than three-quarters of adults in the United Kingdom say the queen carried out her largely symbolic duties “very well” compared to previous monarchs. Fewer than 5% say she was not up to par.

Queen Elizabeth II Gets Top Marks From Her Subjects, Who Have Lower Expectations for King Charles III
British adults were asked to evaluate how well the queen performed her duties compared with past monarchs, and how well they expect her heir to perform

Survey conducted Sept. 12-14, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 adults in the United Kingdom, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

The queen’s heir, though, takes the throne amid much lower expectations from his subjects, with just 39% saying they think he will perform “very well.” King Charles III’s favorability is also 17 percentage points lower than his mother’s (66% to 83%) and only 31% of British adults say they have a “very favorable” view of him, compared with 62% who say the same about the late queen.

As people born long after the height of the empire — and who in many cases have family roots in communities once oppressed by the crown — become an increasingly large part of the British populace, the monarchy may struggle to retain the same esteem of its subjects as it enjoyed in the second Elizabethan era.

And while there may be questions about the British public’s appetite for a continued Windsor reign, the seismic impact of her death on the country’s consciousness is not in dispute: 88% of adults surveyed said they’d heard “a lot” about her passing, which is the largest share on record for any news event — in any country — that Morning Consult has tested.

The survey was conducted Sept. 12-14, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 adults in the United Kingdom, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Morning Consult