British Social Attitudes

British perceptions of national security, civil liberties and human rights

The British public's traditionally strong commitment to civil liberties is believed to be in decline, but until now there has been little rigorous analysis of public opinion. In this project we address that gap by collecting and analysing nationally representative survey data on public attitudes towards national security, human rights and civil liberties. This project was conducted in partnership with the National Centre for Social Research with the support of the New Security Challenges Programme of the Economic and Social Research Council.

We analysed British public attitudes and how they relate to one another (particularly the extent to which it is acceptable to 'trade off' some civil liberties for a perceived counter-terrorism gain). We also identified the political allegiances of those who hold particular views and examined the extent to which attitudes have changed over time. Our key aim was to contribute to the political, public, media and academic debate on civil liberties, human rights and national security, and the interplay between them.

The results of our research were published in 'Civil Liberties and the challenge of terrorism' by Mark Johnson and Conor Gearty in  Park A., Curtice, C., Thomson, K., Phillips M., and Johnson, M. (eds) (2007) British Social Attitudes: the 23rd report - Perspectives on a changing society, London: SAGE. ISBN: 9781412934329