Guest blog – What can we learn from the RBS polling?
November 10, 2015
Last week Move Your Money released polling data that shows widespread public opposition to the sale of RBS back to the private sector, and a strong degree of support for other options to be considered.
In this guest blog Olivia Ryan, Research Executive at Ipsos MORI, analyses our findings in more detail.
Little research has been conducted on public attitudes towards the taxpayer shareholding in RBS, and the headline figures suggest that the Government’s policy on RBS shows low level of public support.
Of those who were aware of the sale and who had an opinion, 3 out of 4 respondents oppose the sale of RBS shares. But who are these people?
Figure 1 shows that whilst more than half of respondents were aware of the RBS sale (53%), men were more likely to be aware of the sale than women (60% versus 40%).
Age was also a telling demographic on this question, with around 3 in 5 of those aged between 45-64 being aware of the sale, and almost 7 in 10 of those aged over 65 expressing awareness. Looking at working status, retired people were also most likely to be aware of the RBS share sale (65% vs 53% overall).
By contrast, those aged 25-34 showed the lowest level of awareness (35%), lower even than millenials aged 18-24 (42% aware).
This is an interesting finding when considering the next question, which asks for levels of support or opposition to the sale.
Only people who were previously aware of the sale were asked whether they support or oppose it. This was done to avoid any bias from the interview, and also working from the basis that only people who know about the sale would be able to have a qualified opinion on it.
With 58% of these respondents opposing the sale on current conditions and only 21% agreeing, those opposing the sale outnumbered those supporting it by 3 to 1, with a further 21% having no opinion.
With people who are unaware of the sale being screened out for this question, respondents were more likely to be male, elderly and/or retired than the overall base.
Given that these demographics are more likely to vote than others – and more likely to vote Conservative, at that – these findings may well be of interest to the Government.
The remainder of the survey focused on the future of the taxpayer shareholding in RBS, and was asked of all respondents.
Overall, 67% of respondents agree that the government should hold a full, independent review into all the options for the future of RBS – as recommended by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. Just one in ten respondents disagreed with this statement (10%).
Interestingly, almost three quarters of respondents living in villages expressed agreement with a public review (74%), with a similar proportion of respondents from the private sector also agreeing with this statement (73%).
The question with the clearest result asked whether the respondent agrees that RBS should operate in the public interest. More than 4 in 5 respondents agreed with this statement, with nearly 2 in 3 of all respondents saying they agreed strongly (65%). Just 6% disagreed with this statement.
As with the previous question, respondents living in villages are most likely to agree (86% compared with 82% overall). Taken in tandem, this evidence supports Move Your Money’s belief that the closure of RBS and NatWest branches is having a disproportionate effect on those living in rural communities, with respondents living in villages more likely to express support for an independent review, and a public-interest RBS.
The final question asked for public opinion on restructuring RBS to make it serve local economies and regions throughout the UK. The results show a higher proportion of people with no opinion, with almost 1 in 4 saying they neither agreed nor disagreed – suggesting perhaps a lack of knowledge or familiarity with the proposal for those respondents.
Despite that, nearly 3 in 5 people agreed with the statement, with those aged 44-54 most likely to agree (66%).
In sum, current Government policy on RBS show’s low levels of support, and public opinion favours a review of all the options for the taxpayer-owned shares in the bank.
Drawing on these results and the growing opposition to the sale from Civil Society and Parliament, Move Your Money’s claim that it would be in both the public and the Government’s interest to launch a full and public review of the public’s shares in RBS appears to be supported by the evidence.
Olivia Ryan is a Research Executive for Ipsos MORI