Opinion polls on the British national identity card

The United Kingdom last had compulsory national identity cards during the Second World War when they were introduced for security purposes.[citation needed] Wartime ID cards were finally withdrawn by the Churchill government in 1952 because of the tension they created between the police and innocent citizens. Proposals to reintroduce them have been raised on a number of occasions since then. During the early 2000s and 2010s, organisations such as No2ID campaigned against these proposals.

Identity cards were re-introduced in Britain in the Identity Cards Act 2006, enacted during Tony Blair's Labour government, as part of a state-approved counterterrorism initiative by – then-Prime MinisterTony Blair, in response to the 11 September 2001 attacks and 7/7 bombings. This was subsequently repealed by the Identity Documents Act 2010 during the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition of 2010.

In 2018 the question was raised again, with articles in The Economist and The Times considering whether it might help address concerns about citizenship and migration, particularly in the light of the Windrush scandal.[1][2][3] At the end of April 2018, two former Home Secretaries Charles Clarke and Alan Johnson called for a rethink on ID cards, saying that immigration targets would be useless without them.[4][5] In September 2018 former Home Secretary Amber Rudd added her voice, saying that "Britain should adopt a new high-tech version of ID cards to tackle fraud, illegal immigration and welfare abuse."[6] This was followed by similar considerations from another Home Office minister Caroline Nokes in 2019.[7]


The announcement of the scheme followed a public consultation, particularly among "stakeholder groups".[8] At March 2003 the government stated that the overall results were:

in favour: 2606 responses (61%)
against: 1587 responses (38%)
neutral: 48 responses (1%)


Some polls have indicated that public opinion on the issue varies across the UK. The 2004 State of the Nation poll[9] by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust showed that opinion in Scotland was far less supportive than that in the rest of the UK. Although that trend is reversed in other polls.[citation needed]

In a poll for Detica conducted by MORI in March 2004[10] showed that 80% of those polled were in favour of a national identity card (11% opposed), although 67% of them have little or no knowledge about the Government's proposed national ID card scheme. Furthermore, only 54% were prepared to pay for a card, with 80% unwilling to pay more than £25. 83% were in favour of carrying the card at all times, though only 44% were in favour of the police being given powers to see it on demand. 58% doubted that the Government could bring in such a scheme smoothly.

In May 2004 a YouGov poll for Privacy International[11] indicated that 61% of the population supported compulsory identity cards. However, in respect of the database maintenance elements, 47% opposed the legal requirement to notify a change of address (compared to 41% in favour), while 45% were against the legal requirement to report lost, stolen or damaged cards (44% in favour). 27% of those polled were 'strongly opposed' to fines. In the under 30 age group, 61% were opposed to fines. Of those opposing the scheme (percentage unstated), 28% would take part in demonstrations, 16% would take part in civil disobedience, and 6% would prefer prison to registering.


Meeting in London against ID cards, 2005.

National opinion polls suggest that the expected cost of the cards affects levels of support. An estimate from the Home Office placed the cost of a 10-year passport and ID card package at £85, while after the 2005 General Election in May 2005 they issued a revised figure of over £93,[12] and announced that a "standalone" ID card would cost £30.[13] Two polls conducted by TNS at the end of 2005 amongst British Citizens and Foreign Residents demonstrated over 65% support for identity cards backed by a central database with a cost of an identity card at £30 and a passport/identity card package at approximately £100 [citation needed]. However, the research conducted by MORI in 2004 showed that only 20% were willing to pay more than £25. The publicised costs also do not include an estimated £30 for processing fees, making the total costs up to £60 for a standalone card, and £123 for a passport/identity card.[14]

A 2005 poll on the BBC web site indicated that of the nearly 9,000 votes, 17% were in favour, 83% against . However, the wording under the poll result states that results of such uncontrolled polls cannot be taken as indicative of public opinion.

Before the July 2005 London bombings, a Telegraph/YouGov poll[15] showed that 66% of people were opposed to the scheme if it cost £6bn and 81% opposed if it cost £10-19bn.


In February 2006, a YouGov/Daily Telegraph poll[16] indicated that public support for the scheme had fallen to 52% (with 37% opposed), despite 60% of those polled stating that those with nothing to hide should have no objection to the scheme. It revealed that the following percentages of people thought that the scheme would:

  • 64% - cut benefit fraud
  • 62% - cut health tourism
  • 55% - cut bogus asylum-seekers
  • 43% - help catch criminals
  • 42% - will make life simpler and more convenient
  • 21% - cut chances of terrorist atrocities

At the same time, it showed that the following percentages thought:

  • 80% - determined criminals and terrorists will forge the cards
  • 74% - the scheme will be enormously expensive
  • 71% - information will be hacked or leaked
  • 61% - information will be improperly passed to foreign governments
  • 60% - will be time consuming and inconvenient
  • 55% - will contain incorrect information
  • 51% - card readers will often malfunction or read inaccurately

In July 2006, an ICM poll[17] indicated that public support had fallen further to 46%, with opposition growing to 51%:

Q1. The government has proposed the introduction of identity cards that in combination with your passport, will cost around £93. From what you have seen or heard do you think the proposal is...?

  • Very good idea 12%
  • Good idea 34%
  • Bad idea 29%
  • Very bad idea 22%

Q2. As part of the National Identity Scheme the government has also proposed that everyone is required to attend an interview to give personal details about themselves for use by the police, tax authorities and all other government departments. From what you have seen or heard do you think that this is a..?

  • Very good idea 10%
  • Good idea 31%
  • Bad idea 33%
  • Very bad idea 23%

A further poll by YouGov/Daily Telegraph, published on 4 December 2006, indicated support for the identity card element of the scheme at 50%, with 39% opposed. Support for the national database was weaker, with 41% happy and 52% unhappy with the prospect of having their data recorded. Only 11% trusted the government to keep the data confidential. 3.12% of the sample were prepared to undergo long prison sentences rather than have a card.[18]

Identity Cards Act, 2006

Identity cards were re-introduced in British law in the Identity Cards Act 2006, enacted during Tony Blair's Labour government, as part of a state-approved counterterrorism initiative (part of the War on Terror) by – then-Prime MinisterTony Blair, in response to the September 11 attacks and 7/7 bombings. Only workers in certain high-security professions, such as airport workers, were required to have an identity card in 2009.


The 2006 Act was repealed by the Identity Documents Act 2010 during the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition of 2010, following opposition to ID cards from the then-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron. Although the Act ends the validity of ID cards as travel documents, no action was to be taken to withdraw the National Identity Cards already issued.[19]


A YouGov survey for The Times found a majority in favour of reintroducing identity cards, with high levels of support for granting extra powers and tools to the security services.[4] "The survey reveals that most people would support the compulsory carrying of ID cards, with 57% support among the control group and 61-63% among those who were asked the crime/terrorism variants."[4]


  1. Britain’s Windrush mess revives support for ID cards: Establishing who does and doesn’t have the right to be in the country might be easier—and fairer—with a national register  The Economist, 3 May 2018
  2. Britain needs a national identity register: The Windrush scandal was caused by the lack of a simple way to perform migration checks (Editorial)  The Economist, 5 May 2018
  3. ID cards are best way to tackle immigration (Comment) David Aaronovitch, The Times, 26 April 2018
  4. Majority of Brits support introducing ID cards, YouGov, 12 May 2018
  5. Reconsider ID cards, say ex-home secretaries  The Times, 30 April 2018
  6. Amber Rudd urges rethink over nationwide ID scheme, The Times, 12 September 2018
  7. Walker, Peter (13 March 2019). "ID cards a possibility after Brexit, says UK immigration minister" via www.theguardian.com.
  8. pdf.
  9. "mori". mori.com. Retrieved on 11 November 2015.
  10. Tempest, Matthew (May 25, 2005). "ID card cost soars as new bill published". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  11. "Q&A: Identity cards". BBC News. July 2, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  12. "Retailers reject ID security fear". BBC News. May 6, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  13. "YouGov | What the world thinks". yougov.com. Retrieved on 11 November 2015.
  14. "YouGov | What the world thinks". yougov.com. Retrieved on 11 November 2015.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2010-05-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. "YouGov | What the world thinks". yougov.com. Retrieved on 11 November 2015.
  17. Cancellation of identity cards: FAQs Archived 2010-06-07 at the Wayback Machine Identity and Passport Service