1 July 2012


Dr Robin Niblett CMG

Director, Chatham House

Thomas Raines

Research Fellow and Programme Manager, Europe Programme

Jonathan Knight


This is the third survey of British attitudes towards the UK's international priorities that Chatham House has developed in partnership with YouGov.

The analysis offers a synopsis of some of the main points from the survey, considering their implications for the coalition government's intention to implement a 'distinctive' foreign policy, with particular reference to the hard choices which will need to be made in the coming years, notably over Europe. 

Key findings include:

  • The majority of the public tend to significantly overestimate the UK's financial contributions to the EU; the average estimate was three times higher than the actual amount. And even when told of the exact figure, most think it is too high.
  • Opinion-formers overwhelmingly believe that the failure of the international financial system poses the greatest threat to the UK way of life. The general public continue to believe that international terrorism represents the greatest threat to the British way of life.
  • 61% of the public believe that government spending on international development is too high, while only 22% agree with the current level of expenditure (although the public tended to considerably overestimate how much the UK spends).
  • One in five of the general public respondents believe that the UK's closest diplomatic ties should be with large emerging economies such as China and India rather than with the US or the EU. Favourability toward the United States has increased steadily over the last two years. 

The Chatham House-YouGov Survey polled over 2,000 electors across Britain, and almost 750 opinion-formers on the YouGovStone panel of business leaders, politicians, academics and journalists. 

Reaction and Implications

Experts offer a synopsis and analysis of some of the main points from the survey. 

Explore Results

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