Tomorrow is Coronation Day in the United Kingdom — a special day when people around the world can take a breath and contemplate essential questions like:
- How many limited-edition pies can one celebration reasonably have?
- What does it mean for the future of polite society if Kate Middleton shows up in a floral headpiece instead of a tiara?
- Which is the smoother ride, the Gold State Coach or the Diamond Jubilee State Coach? (Hint: One of them has air conditioning.)
- Will the Stone of Destiny give its traditional groan when King Charles III sits on the throne? (I’m sorry, you have to click to find out.)
Which is to say, it’s a spectacle. A spectacle loaded with nostalgia and warm patriotic feelings for some — and for others, a reminder of the monarchy’s expensive and scandal-ridden past. As King Charles officially ascends to the throne, polling shows that while there are still plenty of people around the world who have a soft spot for the royal family’s pomp and circumstance, they tend to be older; younger people (and nonwhite people) are more skeptical about the British monarchy’s utility in the modern world.
King Charles’s most obvious problem is that he is far from the public’s favorite royal — at home or abroad. A poll of American adults conducted by YouGov from April 29 to May 2 found that while he’s not as unpopular as as some other family members — the highest unfavorability rating belongs to Prince Andrew, King Charles’s younger brother, who was stripped of his military honors and “royal patronages” after a woman accused him of raping her when she was a teenager — it’s safe to say that relatively few Americans have a soft spot for him. In fact, slightly more Americans have an unfavorable view of King Charles (40 percent) than a favorable view (39 percent), and only 31 percent of Americans think King Charles should have succeeded Queen Elizabeth II. (For context: 24 percent say his son, Prince William, should have succeeded Queen Elizabeth, 15 percent say no one should have succeeded Queen Elizabeth, and 30 percent said they don’t know.)
Luckily for King Charles, his approval ratings are less dismal on the other side of the Atlantic. A YouGov poll conducted in Britain in late April found that 62 percent of Britons have a positive view of Charles — much friendlier than their feelings toward his son, Prince Harry (25 percent), daughter-in-law Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex (24 percent) or Andrew (9 percent). But Charles is far from the most beloved member of the royal family, even at home. His other son and daughter-in-law, Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, have even higher approval ratings, as does Charles’s sister Princess Anne. And perhaps most damningly, his net approval rating — the share of Britons who approve minus the share who disapprove — is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of William, Kate and Anne.
Unlike elected politicians, King Charles can watch his approval ratings ebb and flow without worrying how to win the next election — his job is for life. But in some ways the stakes are even higher for him, since public perceptions of the monarch are usually tied to views of the royal family as a whole, and there are real questions about whether the British monarchy will survive the 21st century, at least in its current form. And underneath those favorability ratings is a lot of apathy about the institution of the monarchy as a whole — and skepticism about whether King Charles really understands the public he’s supposed to serve.
In other words, King Charles’s troubles extend beyond whether he’ll match the crowd sizes at his mother’s coronation in 1953, when an estimated three million people thronged to London to watch her crowned queen. A BBC/YouGov poll conducted in April found that while a majority of Britons (58 percent) think Britain should continue to have a monarchy and only 26 percent want an elected head of state instead, there is a huge generational gap. The vast majority of older Britons want the monarchy to continue, but the youngest group (18-to-24 year olds) is torn: Thirty-two percent think the country should continue to have a monarchy, while a plurality (38 percent) want an elected head of state, and 30 percent don’t know. White respondents were also much likelier than nonwhite respondents (62 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively) to say they want to retain the monarchy. And even so, Britons are unsure how their government should support the monarchy: A YouGov poll conducted in mid-April found that a slim majority (51 percent) of adults don’t think that the government should pay for the celebrations, which could cost taxpayers more than $100 million.
There’s some hope for the British royals in one sense — these polls, while not enthusiastic, also don’t signal a particularly strong anti-monarchist vibe. Whether King Charles is the best person to shepherd the monarchy into its next phase is another question, though. That BBC/YouGov poll found that British adults overall are more likely to say that King Charles is “out of touch with the experiences of the British public” (45 percent) than “in touch” (36 percent) — and once again, the age gap is substantial. A slim majority of Britons over the age of 65 think King Charles is in touch with their experiences, compared to only 16 percent of Britons between the ages of 18 and 24. A solid majority (59 percent) of that group sees King Charles as out of touch.
Perhaps once he’s officially on the throne, King Charles will finally be able to turn his PR problems around. For years, he’s been trying to fix his image issues — and those of the monarchy — by promising a less expensive royal family and emphasizing his commitment to environmental issues that disproportionately matter to younger voters. This American will refrain from early judgment on whether his approach — including the “sustainable” choice to rewear coronation robes that belonged to his mother and grandfather, presumably saving them from the landfill where gold-embroidered regalia usually ends up — will resonate with the youth of Britain going forward.
Other polling bites
- Hollywood writers went on strike earlier this week after contract negotiations fell through, bringing production on many TV shows to a standstill. A YouGov poll conducted on Wednesday, the day after the strike was announced, found that Americans support the strike, overall: Fifty-eight percent of the adults surveyed said they support the writers’ strike, while 15 percent are opposed and 27 percent said they weren’t sure.
- An Ipsos poll asked Americans last week about potential abuses of artificial intelligence, and found that many are worried about the technology’s consequences in the not-too-distant future. According to the survey, 72 percent of Americans are worried that their data will be shared or that they won’t be able to reach a human when they want to, 70 percent are worried that more misinformation will spread online as the result of AI and 57 percent think the tools will discriminate or cause bias. A majority of Americans think the government should be involved in oversight of AI, but they’re split on whether the government should have a major role (38 percent) or a minor role (49 percent).
- Millennials aren’t doing well financially, according to a newly released March survey from Pymnts, a personal finance website, and LendingClub, an online lender. The survey found that more than 70 percent of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, compared to 60 percent of adults overall. But it’s not all bad news: The survey also found that millennials have more money in their savings accounts, on average, than they did a year ago.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,1 42.7 percent of Americans approve of the job President Biden is doing, while 52.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -9.7 points). At this time last week, 42.6 percent approved and 52.7 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.1 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 42.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.7 percent, for a net approval rating of -9.9 points.
CLARIFICATION (May 5, 9:22 a.m.): An earlier version of this article stated that England is the location of Saturday's coronation. While that is technically correct, Charles III is the new monarch of the United Kingdom, not just England, so the text has been updated to reflect that.
CORRECTION (May 5, 9:22 a.m.): An earlier version of a chart in this article indicated that a poll was conducted among residents of England, not Great Britain. The chart has been updated to reflect that the poll was conducted among residents of Great Britain.