Poll: Support for House of Lords at ‘rock bottom’ as public overwhelmingly back overhaul

Posted on the 7th September 2020

Growing calls for change as Conservatives back abolition or move to elected second chamber.

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 7th September 2020. 

Newly-released polling has found that 71% of the UK public back an overhaul of the House of Lords, following the PM’s decision to pack the chamber with 36 new peers.

Support for the current composition of the second chamber lies at just 12%, according to Survation polling for the Electoral Reform Society [1].

It comes as an ERS petition to overhaul the House of Lords nears 400,000 signatures [2].

In the new analysis, pollsters found overwhelming support for Lords reform with 43% in favour of it being partially or entirely elected and another 28% of respondents supporting abolition entirely.

The issue cuts across party and Leave/Remain divides, with a majority of respondents who voted Conservative or Labour in the 2019 general election, and of those who voted Leave or Remain in the EU referendum supportive of either abolition or election.

The poll, following the Government’s announcement a raft of new unelected appointees [3] found that more than in four in 10 of respondents (44%) said that they opposed the new appointments made to the House of Lords – more than the double the percentage of those who said they supported the appointments (19%).

These 36 new appointments, the second highest number in more than two decades, are set to swell the second chamber to nearly 800 members. Only the Chinese National People’s Congress is a larger legislature, with nearly 3000 seats.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society said:

“The public are clear. They are sick to the back teeth of the bare-faced cronyism and political patronage that plagues the unelected House of Lords.

“The Prime Minister’s latest round of appointees represented yet another batch of political allies and financial backers getting handed lifetime seats in the Lords. Voters are rightly backing urgent reform. The high support for abolition should be a wake-up call for parties and peers to back real change before these calls grow louder.

“It is now urgent – for the sake of our democracy – that we move to a proportionally-elected revising chamber, where voters decide who votes on our laws, not the Prime Minister.”

The results come as reports that the Prime Minister is pushing ahead with plans for a ‘donors list’ – giving those who’ve funded the Conservatives ‘votes on our laws for life’ in the second chamber [4].

It also follows damning new expenses revelations, revealing many peers are claiming while contributing little [5].


Notes to Editors

Seventy-two percent of those who voted for the Conservatives at the 2019 general election favoured abolition or election, with 29 percent in favour of abolition and 43 percent in favour of election (in part/in full). Fourteen percent of Conservative voters said they favoured the status quo.

Seventy-nine percent of those who voted Labour at the 2019 general election said the method of composition of the Lords should be changed, with 30 percent in favour of abolition and 49 percent in favour of election (almost half of all Labour voting respondents). Only eight percent of Labour voters said the Lords should remain appointed.

A similar proportion of Leavers and Remainers (76% respectively) said that the Lords should be either abolished or elected (in part/in full). Leavers were more likely to say the Lords should be abolished (36%) than Remainers (21%), while Remainers were more likely to say the Lords should be entirely elected (38%) than Leavers (24%).

[1] Polling by Survation on behalf of The Electoral Reform Society.

Methodology: Fieldwork Dates 21st August 2020 Data Collection – The survey was conducted via online panel. Invitations to complete surveys were sent out to members of the panel. Differential response rates from different demographic groups were taken into account. Population Sampled – Adults aged 18+ in the United Kingdom Sample Size – 1,005 

Question 1: The House of Lords is a part of the UK parliament. Its role is to scrutinise decisions made by MPs in the House of Commons. There are currently around 800 members of the House of Lords.

Currently, members of the House of Lords are not elected but appointed to the chamber by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Which of the following statements is closest to your view?

  1. The House of Lords should be abolished
  2. The House of Lords should be an entirely elected chamber
  3. The House of Lords should be a partly elected chamber
  4. The House of Lords should remain a fully appointed chamber
  5. Don’t know

Question 2: Recently the Prime Minister nominated 36 new members to the House of Lords. To what extent do you support or oppose these new appointments being made?

  1. Strongly Support
  2. Somewhat Support
  3. Neither support nor oppose
  4. Somewhat Oppose
  5. Strongly Oppose
  6. Don’t know

[2] https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-no-more-unelected-peers-scrap-and-replace-the-house-of-lords-now-8a773851-b785-4652-9dc5-79b07a0de8d4

[3] https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/full-list-the-36-new-peers

[4] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/lords-donors-list-second-wave-of-appointments-must-be-stopped-campaigners-say/

[5] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/silent-peers-and-lords-a-claiming-research-lifts-lid-on-fresh-expenses-scandal/

See also: New ERS research on the background of the 36 new Lords: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/report-new-lords-appointments-exacerbate-the-grossly-warped-backgrounds-of-peers/

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