What do young people really think about the monarchy? by Josephine Platt
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II didn’t go under the radar. On Twitter, the news of her death, announced by the official royal family’s channel, fetched over 2.5 million likes and came in as the most popular tweet of the week. Ten days later, her funeral garnered over 29 million viewers in the UK and some 4 billion worldwide with a subsequent outpouring of Tweets featuring the hashtag #RIPQueenElizabeth.
It sounds like huge numbers of viewers in the UK, but it wasn’t the most watched broadcast of all time. The 1966 Fifa World Cup final between England and West Germany has the record for its engagement of 32 million people. Half of the country chose not to tune into the Queen’s funeral service and, while we saw widespread public grieving and respect for the monarch, #AbolishTheMonachy simultaneously trended.
Although opinions circulated about losing “someone who was constant” at a time when politicians divide us, a backlash emerged around the themes of power, privilege and wealth. “Too many people are blinded by tradition and pageantry,” wrote one Twitter user.
Elsewhere, The Guardian charted a split in opinions generationally, revealing a divide between the old and young that shows discontent among younger people. Their data shows that support for the monarchy has dwindled for people between 18-24 years-old, with those who believe we should have a monarchy dropping from 69% in 2015 to a low of 35% in 2020, while a recent poll shows that 86% of Britons aged 65 and over believe the monarchy should continue as it is.
Currently, young persons in favour of the monarchy is up at 47%. This continues to reveal a generational divide, while also underscoring a split down the middle among young persons. Almost half of the UK’s young population are in favour of the monarchy. So what are the reasons for being for and against? To gauge the diversity in opinions, Telltale spoke to a handful of young persons, up to age 30, at a pub quiz in the UK town of Taunton, Somerset.
We asked questions including:
- Should we have a monarchy?
- Did you care when you heard that Queen Elizabeth II died?
- What do you think about the idea of the Queen as a ‘constant’?
- Do you agree with Denmark’s recent decision to slim down its royal family by stripping four grandchildren of their titles? Should Britain follow?
“I have a lot of respect for the Queen; I don’t think the monarchy should be abolished. I couldn’t tell you why but I don’t think we should. We have lost our constant and it’s a great shame. She was a great leader and I think it’s going to change now Charles is in power. I don’t think he’s going to have the same effect or influence. My feelings towards the monarchy didn’t change as a result of watching the funeral; I think we’re quite accustomed to that sort of thing.”
Joe, 30, tree surgeon
“We shouldn’t have a monarchy. I just feel like everyone is equal and everyone’s the same. The death of the Queen didn’t phase me; obviously it’s someone’s nan but we’re all equal. Some of my friends cared, some of them didn’t.”
Jenny, 20, social care for persons with learning difficulties
“I don’t mind the monarchy… I’m actually fine with the idea of it. Without it, we’re pretty boring: just a downturn country with nothing about us. I think patronage by the royal family also makes a difference, whether people just choose to write about it. When a royal is a patron for a charity, you’ll probably get more of a response so it might do some good. I think the Queen has been a constant but not my constant.”
Henry, 30, landscaper
“I feel incredibly indifferent about the Queen. Her death didn’t affect me in the slightest. I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to other people posting on social media: people are allowed to think what they want. I just don’t care. I’m sure there are positives to having a monarchy, but it does seem like quite an odd thing to award a bunch of families who took over by force in the feudal system. I’d say it’s probably a good thing to slim down the royal families, but then you want to ask what’s the point of it in general? Just get rid of the monarchy.”
Josh, 28, unemployed
“I was heartbroken when the Queen died. I was at work when they announced it to all of the old ladies. I’m not sure why I was so sad. I wouldn’t say the Queen was a constant in my life, but she was a constant at Christmas time. We weren’t allowed to open our presents until the Queen’s speech. We had to respect the Queen. I don’t agree with people who disrespect the Queen, but I don’t really care about the monarchy. I care purely about the Queen and who she was. That said, I did think the coverage surrounding her death and funeral was a bit much. It made me cringe.”
Beth, 30, nurse
“Although I’m in no way a monarchist, I think you can get caught up in the general feeling of the country because it surrounds you. Even if you don’t see yourself as having any particular affiliation to them, you feel a general grief amongst people. But I don’t know if it’s a grief for one person that’s died. It’s more a grief towards a constant; a matriarchal figure. Having someone that represents continuously gives you a sense of comfort. I don’t see Britain slimming the royal family down anytime soon. If you look at Harry and Meghan, the uproar of them separating from the royals is enough to put the monarchy off.”
Richard, 30, social anthropology student and cybersecurity BDR
The qualitative findings from this small segment of people affirm that thoughts about the monarchy are not unanimous among persons under 30. A handful of people in the same room, spoken to at random, reveal stark dichotomies in opinions around whether the UK should have a monarchy and if the country has lost a ‘constant’, by way of losing the Queen. The opinions range from suggesting the abolishment of the monarchy to celebrating it, and from feeling heartbroken and sad to not caring and feeling impartial.
Despite the nuances, we see that the younger generations are more sceptical about the need for the monarchy – and according to YouGov’s data it may be increasingly the case. What’s more, the gap between the young and old today is said to mirror that of 1994 – so as today’s younger generation ages, it might be that we see them change their minds in the future.
To help our clients connect with and get a deeper understanding of their audiences, we strive to always keep tabs on current culture and public opinion on a range of topics – be it by asking questions in a local pub, taking part in a demonstration, visiting people in their homes, remotely via Zoom or in focus groups. We look forward to our next journey getting to know the world of your audiences!