12 March 2013

Britons want the Falklands to stay British, study reveals

Just one Briton in five wants the government to negotiate with Argentina over the future of the Falkland Islands, a survey of more than 2,000 people has revealed.

As the residents of the Falkland Islands voice their support for the Islands retaining their status as a British Overseas Territory in this week’s referendum, a study commissioned by academics at the University of Essex and Georgia State University has found little support for talks about Britain relinquishing sovereignty over the Islands.

Opposition to talks remains constant regardless of whether respondents are reminded of Briton’s colonial history, and those old enough to remember the 1982 Falklands War are even more likely to be against the idea.

The study of attitudes of 2,014 Britons was carried out in early February by YouGov and is part of a larger research project sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) examining public attitudes towards foreign policy in different countries.

Initial analysis indicates 21 per cent of Britons support the statement that “Britain must be ready to negotiate with Argentina over the eventual handover of the Falkland Islands.” In contrast, over 50 per cent of those interviewed disagreed, with 36 per cent doing so strongly.

The survey was prepared by Dr Thomas Scotto from the University of Essex, and Dr Jason Reifler, from Georgia State University.

Dr Scotto said: “The UK Government, led by Prime Minister Cameron, has repeatedly rejected bilateral talks with the Argentinean representatives and has argued the status of the Islands is really a matter for its inhabitants. Our survey and other polling by YouGov on the matter suggest that a belief in the principle of self-determination is a key driver of the opposition to ceding control of the Islands to Argentina.

“But this result does not necessarily mean those opposing negotiations have an appetite for conflict. Even respondents who strongly agreed with the statement ‘War is never justified’ were still more likely than not to oppose negotiations.”

Now that more than 30 years has passed since the UK and Argentina fought a war over control of the Islands, responses to the negotiation question were analysed to see if opinions differed by age.

Dr Scotto found 57 per cent of those old enough to remember the conflict opposed talks, compared with 40 per cent of those who were not. Twenty four per cent of under 35s explicitly agreed with the idea of negotiating away control over the islands.

Dr Scotto said: “The age difference suggests that those who remember the conflict might be more opposed because they remember the cost Britain had to bear to retake the Islands, but younger voters do not hunger for the issue to be resolved by ceding ground to Argentinean claims.”

Conservative voters were most strongly opposed to the idea 72 per cent disagreed with the idea of discussing relinquishing the Islands to Argentina while just 44 per cent of Labour and Liberal Democratic voters explicitly opposed.

Dr Scotto is principal investigator on the Economic and Social Research Council-funded project titled ‘The Structure, Causes, and Consequences of Foreign Policy Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis of Representative Democracies’, and the YouGov survey was undertaken as part of this project.


Notes to Editors

For more information please contact Dr Scotto at tscott@essex.ac.uk or on 07917 885935. Fran Abrams, Communications Officer for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Essex, can be contacted on 07939 262001.

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