Understanding the riots

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This report analyses the public opinion polling carried out during the recent riots that occurred across England between 6th and 9th August 2011. We hope that other public bodies, in particular
local councils, will use this to help them consulting with their residents about the riots.

Any researcher asked to consider running a consultation should first turn to the information already in the public domain. This helps establish if there is some national context. This was the task that led us to create this report but we have written it up as an LGinsight discussion paper so that other councils can use it and therefore save time and money. It is designed to offer an analysis of the riots but also a crib sheet of possible questions that could be asked in a consultation through an event or a survey. It is not designed to be definitive but to be an interesting read and to make you think about what if anything you could or should do to follow up the issues.

Everything in this report has been set out as clearly as possible in terms of the evidence collected so that the reader can follow references and use the research quoted. Any omissions or misinterpretations are entirely the fault of the authors. The data used – from national public opinion polling at the time – are all open source and free to use. Follow the references in the footnotes and you will find more detailed data, including break downs by age, gender and other useful demographics. Our approach can therefore be replicated and vigorously tested and we would welcome debate on the validity of the findings and the interpretation and insights we offer.

Every local authority research team in the country is encouraged to write an LGinsight discussion paper. They are designed to open up a debate on a particular topic. We hope that other local government researchers will be so inspired by what we have done, or what we have attempted to do, that they will produce their own ideas and reports.

In writing this report we are indebted to the polling companies who have supplied the research. We have found the following four websites to be particularly useful:  

• ComRes http://www.comres.co.uk

• ICM Research http://www.icmresearch.com

• Ipsos MORI http://www.ipsos-mori.com

• YouGov http://today.yougov.co.uk/archives

We hope you find this report useful and would encourage readers to contact us with comments or take part in an online discussion on the LGinsight Community of Practice page. We are particularly interested in hearing from councils that are planning, or have already started, to discuss the impact of the riots locally.

The recent riots showed that the majority of people are horrified by the riots, pleased by the punishments and disillusioned with leading politicians and society more generally. The public do not believe that politicians will deal with the aftermath of the riots as they failed to address the causes. In many respects it was the scale of the riots that shocked the nation not the fact that they happened. Public opinion polling throughout the period shows how the riots fitted with current pessimistic perceptions of society and politicians. 

However the polling does not identify what local perceptions might be and this is where local authorities and other public bodies fit in. Discussing the riots should be a chance to ensure that local communities include local public sector bodies in their conversations about what really matters to them, rather than just an evaluation of whether they thought the police or the council coped well.

Neil Wholey is Chair of LGinsight and Head of Research and Customer Insight at Westminster City Council. You can follow him on Twitter @neilwholey

To read the full report please click on the link below.

Posted on 29th August 2011