Polling what the UK thinks about the Middle East

New data gathered by 'The National' reveals important trends about politics in Britain and further afield

New research shows the British public is still very much interested in foreign policy. PA via AP
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Today, British voters can be excused for thinking most about problems at home. Inflation is rocketing, a winter energy crisis looms that will hurt pockets even more and a new government has just proposed a radical economic policy about which many experts are deeply sceptical. Markets and the recent drop in the value of the pound sterling reflect the same.

But people have by no means forgotten foreign policy, nor the importance of how their country is perceived abroad.

The National has released in-depth polling data on Britons’ foreign policy priorities, the result of a wide-ranging survey it conducted alongside Deltapoll, a public opinion consultancy. The resounding finding is that foreign policy is still a subject many think about and have opinions on, and, therefore, that it remains a matter that influences how the country picks its leaders.

The survey is particularly interesting for what it says about the UK public's attitude towards the Arab world and wider Middle East. Respondents were in agreement on having strong relations with Arab countries. Close to a third of respondents wanted a stronger relationship, but a similar number were happy with where things are. Only a small minority, 17 per cent, wanted weaker relations.

In terms of threat perceptions, two thirds believe Iran's nuclear ambitions represent a threat, and more than half that it poses a direct threat to the UK.

Data suggests a possible waning of hope, maybe even interest, in the Palestine and Israel conflict. Close to half believed that the UK Government has already done as much as it could to help the issue.

The exact same number (36 per cent) would support as would be against British military action in Afghanistan to protects human rights. Almost half wanted an expansion of Nato, a reflection of the large interest the public has in the war in Ukraine.

Some key international issues were a lot more ambivalent. The climate crisis was one. Three-to-one thought the government should prioritise solving the gas crisis over tackling climate change. This from the country that only just under a year ago hosted Cop26, the most important climate conference on the diplomatic calendar.

Domestic and foreign issues combined in many instances. The general sense building in the UK over the years that standards in public office are declining can be seen in the numbers. Most respondents felt that former prime minister Boris Johnson's time in office has "damaged the UK's standing in the world".

Points like this highlight how foreign policy still matters to everyday citizens. Much has been spoken about western isolationism in recent years. In many cases it has been the backbone, guiding policy approach of political parties across the region, many of which have then ended up in the power.

These results suggest the UK is not there yet. People are worried about the the situation at home, but they still recognise the significance of international affairs and the issues that confront the wider, global home that we all share.

Published: September 27, 2022, 3:00 AM