Voters are Fed up With Rishi Sunak's ‘War on Woke’
Exclusive new Byline poll finds the public is far more tolerant of diversity and cultural change than the Government appears to believe
An overwhelming majority of British voters want the Government to stop talking about its so-called ‘war on woke’ and focus on issues the public really cares about instead, according to an exclusive new poll for Byline Times.
In recent months Sunak’s government has made a series of interventions on issues such as unisex toilets and free speech in universities, designed to inflame a so-called “culture war” with the opposition Labour Party.
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However, a survey of UK voters by pollsters WeThink suggests that the public finds the Government’s focus on such issues a turn off, at a time when polls suggest they are most concerned with other issues such as living costs, crime and climate change.
Asked if they agreed with the statement that ‘the Government spends too much time talking about ‘woke’ issues such as trans rights and free speech and not enough time talking about issues I really care about’, 73% of voters said they agreed, including 80% of Conservative voters.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s recent appointment of a “free speech tsar” charged with tackling so-called “cancel culture” in British universities, 51% said they thought it was a waste of government time and resources, with just 21% disagreeing.
Overall, 59% of voters said they believed politicians should not be getting involved with the issue of whether ‘politically incorrect’ speakers are allowed to speak at educational institutions.
Voters also appear unimpressed with the Government’s recent announcement about restrictions on unisex toilets. Fifty-three per cent of voters said the Government should not be spending time on this issue, compared to just 31% who disagreed. Even Conservative voters were more likely to believe that ministers are wasting their time focusing on this issue.
The Government also appears to be out of touch with the public on the substance of most so-called culture war issues, according to our poll.
Sunak’s Government intervened earlier this year to block plans by the Scottish Government on gender ID and the Prime Minister has repeatedly sought to use the issue in an attempt to trigger a ‘culture war’ with the opposition. However, our poll found that 51% of voters believe people should have a legal right to change their gender if they wish to do so, compared to just 29% who disagree. Even Conservative voters are more likely to back this than not, by 44% to 31%.
Most British voters also appear to be tolerant of diversity and shifting cultural norms, according to our poll.
On sexuality, 72% of voters said they would be comfortable with a close family members coming out as gay or bisexual, compared to just 18% who disagreed.
British people appear similarly tolerant about racial integration, with 72% saying they would be comfortable with a close family member marrying a person of a different race or religion, compared to just 17% who would not.
These findings were consistent across all age groups and regions.
This tolerance was also reflected in a plurality of voters saying that Britain’s increasing diversity was positive. Overall, 48% said that Britain’s increased racial and cultural diversity over recent decades is a good thing, compared to just 19% who said it was a bad thing.
Voters appear to be much more split on the issue of integration, however. Asked if they would feel comfortable with a family of asylum seekers living next door to them, 37% said they would feel uncomfortable, compared to 35% who said they would feel comfortable. Conservative voters were significantly less at ease about the idea of living next to asylum seekers, according to our poll, with 48% saying it would make them feel uncomfortable.
Findings like these are beginning to give pause to some Conservative MPs about the direction their party has taken in recent years. With mounting evidence of the diminishing returns of the so-called ‘culture war’ strategy, some Conservative figures are starting to question whether the attempts to win over a gradually shrinking band of older socially conservative voters is in any way sustainable.
What is particularly interesting about these poll findings is that while there does appear to be some age divide in our findings, that divide is only really noticeable among the very oldest voters. And even among that group, the divide is not huge, with attitudes still appearing to be broadly liberal and tolerant.
The uncomfortable truth for Britain’s conservative culture warriors may well be that in 2023 their culture war has essentially already been fought and lost quite some time ago.
The challenge for the Conservative party now is to find a way to win the only war that really matters to them - the electoral war. And all the evidence is that this war is set to take place on a very different battleground to the one they have been used to fighting on up until this point.
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