2023 Annual Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy and Global Britain

BFPG’s 2023 Annual Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy finds that almost 18 months on from Russia’s invasion, Britons stand firmly united behind Ukraine and the UK’s leadership in aiding the nation. The crisis has necessitated that the UK sharpen its focus on the European security theatre and has been met with reignited interest and pride in the UK’s foreign policy and Britons re-evaluating the UK’s relationships with allies and rivals alike, not least the European Union. Elsewhere, the report finds strong support for the UK Government’s approach to migration, high levels of concern about the economic costs of international development spending, and strong support for UK leadership on climate change.

The British Foreign Policy Group’s annual surveys of UK public opinion on foreign policy chart the key trends in public perceptions of the UK’s international activity, as Britons respond to an increasingly turbulent geopolitical environment. This year’s report was kindly supported by Integrity. Fieldwork involved a nationally representative sample of 2,158 people, conducted by J.L. Partners from 26th May – 1st June 2023. 



Key Findings

– Ukraine: A majority (53%) of Britons believe the UK should provide assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes, and there is little desire for the UK to immediately withdraw support from Ukraine (6%). Furthermore, the majority of Britons support all forms of aid being offered to Ukraine, including providing humanitarian assistance (85%), imposing economic sanctions on Russia (75%), accepting Ukrainian refugees (70%), providing military aid (68%) and providing F-16 fighter jets (56%).

– Defence: A majority (59%) of Britons support increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, either now or over the next few years. Meanwhile, support for retaining the UK’s membership of NATO is remarkably strong (78%), and has risen 11 percentage points over the last two years.

– European Union: With a renewed focus on the European security theatre and the signing of the Windsor Framework, Britons are increasingly warming to cooperation with the EU, and only a small fraction (5%) of Britons oppose all cooperation with the EU. Support is particularly high for reducing barriers to trade in goods and services with the EU (61%), which is even supported by a majority of Leave voters (58%).

– Alliances: Of the nations polled, the European Union (53%) is the most widely trusted nation in terms of its capacity and willingness to act responsibly in the world – above Ukraine (50%), the United States (48%) and France (46%). Strikingly, trust in France has fallen 9 percentage points over the last year, likely the result of ongoing debates about irregular Channel migration.

– China: While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has consumed significant bandwidth over the last year, Britons are still highly concerned about the threat posed by China, with 74% of Britons distrusting China. Just 15% of Britons believe Chinese tech companies such as TikTok should be allowed to operate in the UK.

– Migration: There is strong support for the UK Government’s current approach to migration – 54% of Britons support the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill, compared to 23% of Britons who oppose it.

– International Development: Despite the majority of Britons (55%) believing the UK has a moral duty to use aid and development to contribute to a more secure and prosperous world, they remain acutely concerned about the costs of international development spending – 61% of Britons believe international aid and development spending takes away money that should be spent on domestic needs and just 14% of Britons believe the UK should restore its 0.7% GNI spending commitment now.

– Climate Change: Support for UK leadership on climate change continues to grow, with 70% of Britons supporting the UK taking a leading international role in tackling climate change.


Media Enquiries:
eliza.keogh@bfpg.co.uk | 07884 375018

Evie Aspinall and Eliza Keogh

Evie Aspinall is BFPG's Director and Eliza Keogh is a BFPG Researcher and Programmes Manager