Voters see research spending as high priority, finds poll

Academics should emphasis role research can play in tackling other voter priorities going into next year’s election, says campaign group

December 5, 2023
Someone walks into a polling station
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A majority of people want the UK’s political parties to make research and development funding a high priority in next year’s general election, according to new polling.

But neither the Conservative party nor the Labour party appear to have convinced voters that they are taking the issue seriously enough.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) asked research agency Public First to poll 2,050 people as part of its long-running Discovery Decade project to explore public attitudes to the UK’s research sector.

It found that 58 per cent of those polled thought that funding R&D should be a high priority for UK political parties, but only 39 and 38 per cent respectively believed it was actually a priority for Labour and the Conservatives.

CaSE is calling for whoever wins the next general election to commit to long-term research funding and said the polling showed this idea enjoyed popular support.

Asked about their support for research into new medicines, 74 per cent said it should be a priority but less than half said they believed it currently was for Labour or the Conservatives.

More than half said they were unsure which party to trust when it came to responding to the rise of artificial intelligence, and 36 per cent said they would not trust either the Conservatives or Labour on the matter.

Bringing down the cost of living and supporting the NHS were identified as voters’ top priorities. CaSE said its research had shown that many people believed R&D could play an important role in tackling these issues.

Its polling also found:

  • 70 per cent of people would support a proposal to build a new laboratory for carrying out R&D on their nearest high street
  • 71 per cent would support the government taking action to make the UK the best place for a company to set up a research department
  • 49 per cent thought that the UK used to lead the world in research but no longer did.

The director of the project, Ben Bleasdale, said the results of the poll should influence political parties as they develop their policies going into the election, which has to happen before January 2025.

“With neither Labour nor the Conservatives securing a lead on R&D in voters’ minds, both parties have an opportunity to put R&D at the centre of their strategy for tackling the issues that matter to voters, from the cost of living to sustainable public services,” he added.

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