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26 July 2022

Where does public opinion stand on the rail strikes?

Younger people are far more likely than older people to support striking train workers.

By Katharine Swindells

This article was originally published on 20 June but was updated following strike action in July

Last-minute negotiations between rail company bosses and trade union leaders have once again failed to prevent planned strikes, which will go ahead on 27 and 30 July, with 40,000 members of the RMT union set to walk out on Wednesday.

The union says strikes are in response to stagnating pay and cuts to benefits and pensions. The strikes are expected to cause major disruption across the UK, with Network Rail warning passengers to travel by train only if “absolutely necessary”.

Polling in June by YouGov found that British people are divided in their opinion of the strike. Half of respondents said they opposed rail workers striking over pay and conditions, while a third said they supported it.

There was a big difference across age groups. Half (49 per cent) of respondents aged 18-24 said they supported strikes. Among older age groups, who tend to use trains far less frequently, there was significantly less support. Of those aged 50-64, a third (32 per cent) said they strongly opposed rail workers going on strike, and among those over 65 it was 42 per cent.

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Across England, Scotland and Wales, those in the north of England were most likely to be supportive and those in London were most hostile, with 53 per cent saying they opposed strikes.

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Politically, Labour voters were far more supportive: 59 per cent said they supported or strongly supported rail workers going on strike, while just 14 per cent of Conservative voters felt the same.

[See also: The government ignores Felixstowe port strikes at its peril]

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