Tuned in or Turned off? Public attitudes to PMQs

Tuned in or Turned off? Public attitudes to PMQs

Tuned in or Turned Off - Public attitudes to Prime Minister's Questions (2014)Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) is the best known aspect of Parliament’s work, famous throughout the world for its combative, adversarial atmosphere. It is the bit of Parliament’s work that the public are most aware of and have likely seen on the television news. But while politicians and journalists have strong views about the value of PMQs, there has been a scarcity of substantive evidence as to the public’s opinions.

To address this deficit and to examine what impact the most high-profile element of parliamentary life might have on public attitudes to politics and Parliament, we held four online focus groups and followed these up with survey questions as part of Audit of Political Engagement 11.

The results were in many respects damning, with focus group participants overwhelmingly responding negatively towards PMQs. The word cloud in the header image on this page shows the most commonly chosen words to represent PMQs as chosen by participants across all four groups, with the larger words representing those selected most often.

The survey results similarly reflected this disenchantment with PMQs amongst the wider public, with 67% of respondents agreeing that ‘there is too much party political point-scoring instead of answering the question’, 47% agreeing that PMQs ‘is too noisy and aggressive’ and just 12% agreeing that PMQs ‘makes me proud of our Parliament’.

The research also looks at what the public think of other aspects of Parliament’s work – including select committees and the Liaison Committee – and discusses the issues around reputation management for such a complex, multi-faceted organisation. It considers what reforms may be needed, particularly to PMQs, to help improve Parliament’s standing in the eyes of the public.

Download: Tuned in or Turned off? Public attitudes to Prime Minister’s Questions


  • Information about the survey questions used in this research can be found in Audit of Political Engagement 11 and linked from that page is a copy of the survey dataset.
  • Details about the construction of the four online focus groups are available in the report. You can also download the focus group transcripts (available soon).


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Dr Ruth Fox, Director and Head of Research

Joel Blackwell, Senior Researcher

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