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).
Selected media coverage
- Put misbehaving MPs in ‘sin bin’, think tank recommends, BBC News, 11 February 2014
- PMQs ‘should have prime time slot’, Evening Standard, 11 February 2014
- Think Tank: PMQs should move to prime time slot, ITV, 11 February 2014
- PMQs ‘Needs Sin Bins And A Twitter Audience’, Sky News, 11 February 2014
- PMQs needs reforming but it shouldn’t be toned down, The Spectator, 11 February 2014
- Tuned In or Turned Off? Public Attitudes to PMQs, Huffington Post, 11 February 2014
- Prime Minister’s Questions: ‘Sin bin’ idea touted for naughty politicians, The Independent, 12 February 2014
- Andrew Sparrow: My PMQs Verdict, The Guardian, 12 February 2014
- Daily Politics, BBC 2, 12 February 2014
- PM Programme, BBC Radio 4, 18 February 2014
- Newsnight, BBC 2, 18 February 2014
- Exclusive: Commons Speaker John Bercow attacks ‘sexist, snobbish, yobbish’ PMQs and says he favours radical reform, Independent, 18 February 2014
- John Bercow calls for end to ‘orchestrated barracking’ at PMQs, The Guardian, 18 February 2014
- PMQs Accused Of ‘Public School Twittishness’, Sky News, 18 February 2014
- ‘Childish’ PMQs set bad example to voters – Bercow, The Scotsman, 18 February 2014
- Speaker Bercow calls for PMQs ‘twittishness’ to stop after weeks of scolding MPs, Daily Express, 18 February 2014.
- ‘Whining Bercow should look in the mirror': Furious MPs hit back at Speaker’s complaint about ‘public school twittishness’ at PMQs, Daily Mail, 19 February 2014
- Top British politicians call for urgent reforms to PMQs, Times of India, 20 February 2014
- The Knowledge: How does the public view PMQs?, PoliticsHome, 27 February 2014