Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 10:27 UK

Poll Watch: March 2008

In the latest monthly Poll Watch, the BBC's political research editor, David Cowling, reviews the political opinion polls published in the UK in March.

Princess Diana
The inquest into the 1997 Paris crash lasted six months

The front pages of many newspapers in March featured events at the inquest into the death of Princess Diania - and, helpfully, a Populus/BBC (sampled 20-22 March) survey gave some insight into public attitudes to it.

Some 78% thought the six month inquest would not end speculation about her death. On balance, 15% thought the Princess died as a result of a murder conspiracy, 45% thought as a result of an accident and 38% declared themselves "unsure".

When asked to judge whether the reputations of various individuals had been improved or damaged by the inquest, 52% thought Mohammed al Fayed had been damaged, 43% thought the same of Paul Burrell's reputation, as did 24% of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Class system

The month saw two substantial polls dealing with issues surrounding class. MORI/Schott's Almanac (sampled 7-9 March) found 52% of respondents describing themselves as working class and 44% as middle class.

Some 88% agreed that there is a class system in Britain but 58% felt it had become less rigid since 1945.

The poll provided some interesting comparisons by repeating certain questions asked in 1991. In 2008, 68% agreed there would never be a classless society in Britain, compared with 79% in 1991.

Private schooling

In 2008, 55% agreed "this country has too many barriers based on social class" but this compares with 76% who held that opinion in 1991.

And whereas 59% in 1991 thought "the right accent" was important if you wanted to get ahead, in 2008 44% held that view.

However, there was not much change when it came to whether private education increases prospects for getting to the top in Britain - 69% agreed in 1991, compared with 63% in 2008.

Iraq democracy

The other survey on class was Populus/BBC Newsnight (sampled 29 February-2 March). It asked respondents how important certain groups were "in defining the way you see yourself personally".

Some 52% said nationality was important, 34% answered religion, 25% ethnicity and 24% class. The biggest difference between middle and working class respondents emerged with religion - 28% of the middle class said it was important in defining themselves, compared with 41% of the working class.

Around the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, ICM/Sunday Telegraph (sampled 12-13 March) found 65% who thought the decision to commit British troops to the conflict was the wrong thing to do (28% thought it was right).

Budget impact

Also, 67% thought it unlikely that democracy would become fully established in Iraq "in the foreseeable future".

Populus/Times (sampled on 12 March) sought an immediate reaction to the Budget from 596 respondents contacted throughout the evening of Budget Day itself.

Some 38% thought they would be paying more tax as a result of the Budget (4% thought less, 46% thought it would make no difference and 12% did not know).

Overall, 5% thought they would be better off as a result of the Budget, 42% thought worse off and 45% that it would make no real difference to them.

Whereas 50% of men thought they would be worse off, 36% of women shared that view of themselves.

Two-thirds of respondents (66%) agreed that the global economy affected Britain's economy significantly more than anything the chancellor of the exchequer does.

When it came to the specific Budget proposals, 55% agreed with "big increases" in duty on beer, wine and spirits; 68% with "big increases" in vehicle excise duty on 'gas-guzzling' cars; and 71% agreed with the decision to increase these taxes "in order to fund increases in child benefit and winter fuel allowance for the over-60s".

Also in March ComRes/Christian Institute (sampled 28-30 March) asked about issues arising from the Embryology Bill currently being debated in Westminster.

Some 60% of respondents agreed that it was wrong "to create animal-human embryos".

Poll Watch: February 2008
03 Mar 08 |  Politics
Poll Watch: January 2008
08 Feb 08 |  Politics
Poll Watch: Review of 2007
21 Dec 07 |  Politics
Poll Watch: November 2007
07 Dec 07 |  Politics
Poll Watch: October 2007
08 Nov 07 |  Politics

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