Press Release

How do British people view the capital?

The majority of Britons have pride in London as a capital city, a YouGov poll on behalf of Centre for London and the Mile End Institute has found.

Find out more on our blog

The polling, commissioned to deepen understanding of how the capital’s relations to the rest of the country have changed in recent years, found that:

  • A majority of people living outside of London (56 per cent) say they have pride in London “as the capital city of the United Kingdom”, while just over a quarter (28 per cent) say they are not proud.
  • Expressions of pride drop significantly in Scotland and Wales (44 per cent in Wales, and 39 per cent in Scotland), but even in the North – the least proud English region – a majority of people still say they are proud of London as the capital city (51 per cent proud compared to 31 per cent not proud).
  • In London itself, a full 80 per cent say they have pride in the city.

Despite this sense of pride in the capital city, London is seen as expensive and inaccessible by the majority of people; non-Londoners think London is “expensive” (47 per cent), “crowded” (43 per cent), “diverse” (20 per cent) and “chaotic” (20 per cent). And a huge majority (78 per cent) of non-Londoners said that they didn’t think that living and working in London was “a realistic option for people like me”. This includes 53 per cent who said it was “not realistic at all”.

It also found that while people think that London benefits the national economy overall, they do not think it benefits their local area directly. A clear majority (77 per cent) of people who live outside London think that the city contributes either “a lot” or “a fair amount” to the UK economy as a whole. But only a small minority (16 per cent) think that it contributes either “a lot” or “a fair amount” to the economy where they live.

Despite scepticism about London’s local economic impact, moving institutions out of the capital to rebalance the economy did not attract widespread support. When presented with a list of 10 institutions that could be moved out of London to make the UK a fairer place – covering the media, royalty, government, galleries – the top choice for non-Londoners was ‘None – I don’t think moving anything out of London would make the UK fairer’ (40 per cent). Another 12 per cent said they did not know.

Of those who did select an institution to move, the most popular option was government departments, but it was selected by fewer than one in five people (19 per cent). Parliament was second, chosen by 14 per cent.

Prof Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London and Director of the Mile End Institute, said:

“Most people think London delivers for the UK’s economy – they just don’t think it delivers for them”.

Dr Jack Brown, Senior Researcher at Centre for London, said:

“Brits might be proud of London, but too many people feel excluded from the city.

“With limited public support for the decentralisation agenda, we need radical ideas to ensure London is spreading prosperity and rebuilding relations with the rest of the country.”


Notes to Editors

About Centre for London

  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank. Politically independent and a registered charity, the Centre aims to make London a fairer and more prosperous global city. The Centre publishes research, holds events and collaborates widely to influence policy making.
  • The Centre is developing new thinking on how London can connect with the rest of the country. It will be publishing a research report, London and the UK, in spring 2019.

About the Mile End Institute

  • The Mile End Institute, at Queen Mary University of London, connects research, policy-making and public debate to deepen and challenge the understanding of British politics, governance and public.

About the data

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample sizes were 1218 in London and 1883 in the rest of GB. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3-6 September 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of London adults and GB adults outside London (aged 18+) respectively. YouGov are a member of the British Polling Council and abide by their rules.
  • The rest of GB data can be found here and the London data here.

Find Out more