The opinion poll was conducted in the wake of news reports suggesting that the Government would not attend the talks. The Government has long insisted that nuclear disarmament can only be achieved through ‘multilateral’ negotiations rather than through the ‘unilateral’ action of giving up our own nuclear weapons, but says the upcoming talks “will not bring us closer to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons”.
Campaigners point out the illogic of making such a judgment before negotiations have even started.
“If the UK were serious about achieving nuclear disarmament through multilateral negotiations, the government would not only be at these talks, but would be playing a leading role to make sure they succeed,” says Tim Wallis of Quaker Peace & Social Witness.
Most people in the UK are unaware of the nuclear negotiations about to start in New York. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority clearly believes that if disarmament talks are taking place, their own Government should be there.
Among those who voted for the ruling Conservative Party in 2015, a solid 79% are in favour of the Government taking part in these negotiations. Those who voted Labour were equally adamant at 79%. In terms of age bracket, those most keen to see the Government contribute to nuclear disarmament worldwide are those aged 65 and over, many of whom can still remember the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the radioactive contamination caused by atmospheric tests of the 1950s. The younger age brackets had the highest percentages of ‘don’t knows’, but were still over 70% in favour of talking.
Geographically, the strongest support for participating in the negotiations came rather unsurprisingly from Scotland, where 82% favour the Government taking part. As with the Brexit negotiations, the Scottish Executive would prefer to be part of these talks independently of the Westminster Government. The SNP will be sending their own delegation of observers to the UN. It was recently confirmed that Fabian Hamilton, the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Peace & Disarmament, will also attend as an observer.
A poll conducted in Germany last year by the Forsa Institute indicated that 93% of German citizens supported negotiations to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Similar polls in Netherlands and Sweden have also yielded very high percentages in support of these negotiations.
The YouGov poll, commissioned by Abolition 2000 UK, asked a representative sample of UK adults, “Do you personally think the UK government should or should not be participating in [the upcoming nuclear ban treaty] negotiations?” Abolition 2000 UK is a network of more than 200 peace groups, churches and local authorities across the UK committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,951 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 16th March 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Full results of the poll can be found at YouGov.com.