The national outpouring of grief over the loss of Queen Elizabeth II appears to show a nation united behind the institution of the monarchy. It is certainly true that the late queen was incredibly popular – the last poll before her death found 81% of people held her in positive regard, a rate that had remained consistent for more than a decade.
But Her Majesty’s personal reputation outstripped that of the institution she led. YouGov polling shows that 68% have a positive opinion of the monarchy at present. In contrast to his mother, King Charles III’s reputation simply matches that of the crown, with 70% viewing him positively. That figure jumped up overnight on his ascension to the throne, with his favourability ratings more typically fluctuating between 50% and 60% over the past 11 years.
In the case of both the institution and the present occupant, it is likely that at least some of this perceived increase in popularity is a temporary boost spurred by the emotion of the moment. Some Britons may also be answering the question differently now that it relates to King – rather than Prince – Charles.
Nevertheless, these numbers appear very healthy. Certainly, any politician would kill to be thought of so favourably by so many. But the long-term prospects for the monarchy may not be as stable as they appear. Bubbling away beneath the surface is growing dissatisfaction among younger people.
Currently, only 47% of 18- to 24-year-olds say Britain should continue to have a monarchy, compared with 86% of Britons aged 65 and over. Even this level of support among young people may be temporarily inflated: just 33% had voiced their desire to keep the crown in May, at the time of the platinum jubilee.
Such disillusionment is a relatively new development. As recently as 2015, 69% of 18- to 24-year-olds said that Britain should remain a monarchy. By 2018 this had fallen to 47%, and in polls from 2020 onwards, prior to the Queen’s death, it has averaged at just 35%.
The present level of support for an elected head of state among under-25s (33%) is largely in line with the average since 2020 (37%). Prior to late 2019, that figure had never been higher than 24%. By contrast, the oldest Britons – those aged 65 and over – have remained resolutely in favour of the institution.
The notion that the monarchy is good for the country also no longer seems to wash with young people. While 61% of 18– to 24-year-olds were convinced of the benefits in 2015, today that figure stands at 33%, and the 24% it was in May probably better reflects attitudes in more stable times.
Similarly, young Britons are split 40% to 39% on whether the royal family represents good or bad value for money. And even among all the displays of patriotism commemorating the Queen’s death, just 31% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they are proud of the British monarchy. The same number say they are embarrassed.
It doesn’t appear likely that the new King will be able to generate a renewed enthusiasm for the institution among young people. In the moment of his ascension, opinion about Charles III among young Britons is divided: 41% have a positive view of him compared with 43% with a negative one. However, this again may be a temporary favourability boost compared with more “normal” times – 20% had a positive view in May, and our data has not shown a notable accompanying decrease in the number with an unfavourable view (47%).
That said, one area that may benefit King Charles III’s standing among young people is his historic outspokenness. Seven in 10 18- to 24-year-olds say it would be appropriate for the King to speak out on issues he cared about. This is likely predicated on the fact that the environment is one such issue the new King cares about, an issue that matters a great deal to young people.
It is possible that younger Britons could feel positive towards the new monarch, if not the monarchy, as an environmentally focused King – as long as his outspokenness didn’t also extend to other issues that may alienate young people.
Of course, it is unclear at this stage what the longer-term picture will be for the monarchy. Public opinion around the crown’s popularity and the new monarch will become clearer in the months ahead as people’s shock at the passing of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch is absorbed and a new relationship with our latest sovereign is established.