Eight thoughts on YouGov’s polling on what Britons think about London

How could anyone hate this, eh? Cor. Image: Getty.

Those click hungry cats over at YouGov have done it again – conducting a poll that looks suspiciously like it only exists because it’s the sort of thing that might go viral. Let’s gloss over the fact I fall for it every single time and get down into the weeds.

This time, it’s the capital that the polling firm has been polling about – basically, do people in different bits of the country like it?

Here are the results, in the form of a map:

And here are some of my thoughts about that map:

1. London is surprisingly popular

The capital has a net favourability rating of +17: while 28 per cent have an unfavourable view of the capital, 45 per cent have a favourable one. (The rest are various flavours of “don’t know”.)

I’m genuinely a bit surprised by this: maybe I’m just a delicate flower, but the impression I’ve had of late is that everyone outside the M25 bloody hates us. So this is a pleasant surprise.

2. It gets less popular the further you go from it

Generally, the southern and eastern bits of England – those closest to London – have broadly favourable views of it. Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the North West and far north of England have broadly unfavourable views.

This might go some way to explain London’s unexpected lack of unpopularity: the population of Great British is clustered towards the south eastern end of the island, so I’d guess that something like 60 per cent of the total must live in the broadly green bit.

3. Poorer areas are less keen on London

Scotland and Wales plausibly have their own reasons for disliking the capital, not least that it serves as a symbol of English domination. So set those aside, and look instead at the English regions with the most negative view of it: Cornwall, the north west, the north east... All are on the wrong side of the major faultline running down the middle of the British economy. Even in Yorkshire, which is broadly positive to the capital, it’s South Yorkshire, the most depressed part of the county, which is by far the most negative.

There are exceptions, like affluent Cheshire; by and large, though, this is a gazetteer of the parts of England which have struggled most economically over the past few decades.

Since another way of describing the north-south divide is “London’s dominance of the British economy”, it’s perhaps no surprise that residents of these regions don’t think much of the capital.

4. In the south east itself, the results are weird

The economic explanation breaks down when you get closer to the capital. It’s very unclear to me why Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Sussex – rich regions all – should like the capital less than the other counties around them.

The only explanation that comes to mind is that they’re all places that attract migrants from elsewhere in Britain (top universities, good jobs, etc.), so maybe they bring their views with them. But I’m reaching.

5. People who don’t like London tend not to like cities

One of the largest differences between the pro- and anti-London groups is their response to the statement, “I think cities are grey and depressing”: 61 per cent of London-haters agree with that one, compared to 35 per cent of everyone else. In the same way, 53 per cent of anti-Londoners agree with the statement, “I could never live in a big city”.

6. There is such a thing as a self-hating Londoner

Oh hang on, no, it’s actually other people they hate.

The research also finds that anti-Londoners are nearly twice as likely to believe that multiculturalism has had a negative impact on the UK as everyone else: 57 per cent to 32 per cent. To quote the write up:

“This relationship holds true across all parts of Britain, and is especially strong amongst Londoners who are themselves anti-London.”

In other words, of those who live in Greater London and think multiculturalism was a bad idea, more than two-thirds of them also have an unfavourable view of the capital. Whatever could it mean.

7. We can fix this, if we want to

I quote:

“Having lived in London seems to boost people’s opinions of the city: 43 per cent of pro-Londoners have done so (with 21 per cent living there currently), while only 23 per cent of anti-Londoners have ever resided in the city (with 6% living there currently).”

So, all we need to do to get everyone to love London is to force everyone to live there for a bit.

I see no possible downsides to this plan.


8. YouGov is trolling the Celtic nations

The map stops in the central belt of Scotland, effectively cutting off everything north of the Forth Bridge. It doesn’t feature Northern Ireland at all.

I assume there’s a boring explanation for this (“It’s harder to poll Northern Ireland, and the map was too small when we included all of Scotland”) but it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing calculated to go down brilliantly in the non-English bits of the UK.

Anyway, this was fun. Not quite as fun as the time they commissioned a poll on whether the DLR is a tube just to annoy me, but fun nonetheless.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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“You don’t look like a train buff”: on sexism in the trainspotting community

A female guard on London’s former Metropolitan Railway. Image: Getty.

I am a railway enthusiast. I like looking at trains, I like travelling by train and I like the quirks of the vast number of different train units, transit maps and train operating companies.

I get goosebumps standing on a platform watching my train approach, eyeballing the names of the destinations on the dot matrix display over and over again, straining to hear the tinny departure announcements on the tannoy.  I’m fortunate enough to work on the site of a former railway station that not only houses beautiful old goods sheds, but still has an active railway line running alongside it. You can imagine my colleagues’ elation as I exclaim: “Wow! Look at that one!” for the sixth time that day, as another brilliantly gaudy freight train trundles past.

I am also a woman in my twenties. A few weeks my request to join a railway-related Facebook group was declined because I – and I quote here – “don’t look like a train buff”.

After posting about this exchange on Twitter, my outrage was widely shared. “They should be thrilled to have you!” said one. “What does a train buff look like?!” many others asked.

The answer, of course, is a middle-aged white man with an anorak and notebook. Supposedly, anyway. That’s the ancient stereotype of a “trainspotter”, which sadly shows no sign of waning.

I’m not alone in feeling marginalised in the railway community. Sarah, a railway enthusiast from Bournemouth, says she is used to funny looks when she tells people that she is not only into trains, but an engineer.

She speaks of her annoyance at seeing a poster bearing the phrase: “Beware Rail Enthusiasts Disease: Highly Infectious To Males Of All Ages”. “That did bug me,” she says, “because women can enjoy trains just as much as men.”


Vicki Pipe is best known as being one half of the YouTube sensation All The Stations, which saw her and her partner Geoff Marshall spend 2017 visiting every railway station in Great Britain.

“During our 2017 adventure I was often asked ‘How did your boyfriend persuade you to come along?’” she says. “I think some found it unusual that a woman might be independently interested or excited enough about the railways to spend sixteen weeks travelling to every station on the network.”

Pipe, who earlier this year travelled to all the stations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, is passionate about changing the way in which people think of the railways, including the perception of women in the industry.

“For me it’s the people that make the railways such an exciting place to explore – and many of these are women,” she explains. “Women have historically and continue to play an important part in the railway industry – throughout our journey we met female train drivers, conductors, station staff, signallers and engineers. I feel it is important that more female voices are heard so that women of the future recognise the railways as a place they too can be part of.”

Despite the progress being made, it’s clear there is still a long way to go in challenging stereotypes and proving that girls can like trains, too.

I’m appalled that in 2019 our life choices are still subjected to critique. This is why I want to encourage women to embrace their interests and aspirations – however “nerdy”, or unusual, or untraditionally “female” they may be – and to speak up for things that I was worried to speak about for so long.

We might not change the world by doing so but, one by one, we’ll let others know that we’ll do what we want – because we can.