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ID card backlash: is the poll tax effect kicking in?

Large numbers prepared for demos, even prison

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UK public support for ID cards is declining, while opposition is hardening, and a surprising number - perhaps five million - would be prepared to take to the streets in opposition, according to a new opinion poll released today. The results, although they still show 61 per cent in support of the scheme, show committed opposition in sufficient numbers for poll tax-style disruption to be a very real possibility.

Since last month's Detica survey, numbers strongly opposed to any kind of ID card have doubled from 6 per cent to 12 per cent. Within the opposition 28 per cent, which would translate as 4.9 million in the population as a whole, say they would participate in demonstrations, 16 per cent (2.8 million) would get involved in "civil disobedience" and 6 per cent (around a million) would be prepared to go to prison rather than register for a card. Talk is of course cheap at this stage, but this is still an indication of seriously vehement opposition just a few weeks after the scheme was unveiled, and even the more favourable (for the Government) Detica poll showed quite clearly that the vast majority of people knew practically nothing of what the scheme entailed. And the more they learn, the less they may like it.

The latest survey was commissioned by Privacy International and conducted by YouGov, and obviously its intentions differ from the Detica survey, so the results are not always directly comparable. But some of the most interesting numbers stem from the differences. YouGov found that in addition to losing numbers, support is weakening, with people less sure, and rather lower numbers prepared to go for a compulsory scheme (which, ultimately, it will be). And some of the key components are decisively rejected by the public as a whole, which is what you might call a bit of a problem. Most (47 per cent versus 41 per cent) don't want to have to tell the government when they change their address, and 24 per cent strongly oppose revealing it in the first place (So perhaps they'd care to revolt against against passports and driving licences? But never mind...).

Again, 45 per cent oppose the requirement to inform the government when a card is lost, stolen or damaged (44 per cent in favour) and 34 per cent are against having fines or imprisonment as penalties for failure to comply.

It is of course utterly illogical for people to be in favour of the scheme while opposing aspects of it whose removal would render it (as currently envisaged) unworkable. But The Detica poll also showed that support of the scheme was based on some pretty staggering misconceptions, so perhaps what we have here is a picture of a nation on its way to an education - as they join the dots up, it's surely rather more likely that they'll begin to reject the scheme as a whole, rather than, say, concluding it's OK for the government to keep tabs on your address after all.

And among the entrenched opposition there's something that really is very surprising. Across the board Conservative voters are markedly more likely to oppose the scheme, go to demos, participate in civil disobedience and even go to prison, than Labour voters. If he plays his card right, former "Mr Poll Tax" Michael Howard, now Conservative leader of the opposition, could yet have his revenge. And indeed the image of him being hauled into the van by the Met is quite treasurable... ®

Related links:

Mistaken ID public meeting, London, 19th May
Blunkett risks ID card battle with EU
Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card
UK public wants ID cards, and thinks we'll screw up the IT
Privacy International
YouGov poll analysis

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