Press Release

Extremism is in the eye of the beholder, survey finds

17 July 2017         Issued by: Christian Concern

A new survey by ComRes, commissioned by Christian Concern and other Christian organisations, shows that there is widespread confusion and diverging opinions on the definition of extremism.

The survey shows that mainstream political views are considered extreme by many people. Surprisingly, 41% said that believing women should be paid equally to men for doing the same job is extreme. As many as 39% said believing that climate change is an important global problem made worse by human behaviours is extreme.

When it comes to leaving the EU, 36% think it is extreme to believe that the UK should leave the EU, and 30% think it is extreme to believe that the UK should remain in the EU. If we assume that no one said both views are extreme then this means that a minority of the population believe that neither position is extremist.

Four out of 10 people (40%) considered it extreme to believe that all diesel cars should be banned and 38% cent said that believing that fox hunting should be legalised is extreme. 42% said it was extreme to believe that the monarchy should be abolished.

Believing that marriage should only be between a man and a woman was considered extreme by as many as 41% of those surveyed. This means that many people view those holding to a traditional understanding of marriage as extremists.

A clear majority of those polled (54%) believe that it is not helpful to use the word ‘extreme’ when discussing political or social opinions.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, said: “This survey shows that extremism is in the eye of the beholder. People have widely divergent views on what counts as extremist. Many people consider mainstream political or social views to be extreme. There is no consensus in society about what counts as extreme. 

“We are very concerned that the government is planning to set up a Commission on for countering Extremism. ‘Extremism’ is notoriously difficult to define and this survey shows why. As a majority of the survey said, ‘extreme’ is not a helpful term to use when discussing political or social opinions.

“The problem is terrorism, which involves incitement to violence. This is what should be investigated, not ‘extremism in all its forms.’

“If public opinion is used to define what are acceptable and what are extreme views, this will result in massive confusion, and restrictions of free speech in society.

“We call on the government to stop using the term ‘extremism’ in political discourse and to focus instead on incitement to violence.”


Notes for editors


The Evangelical Alliance led the coalition of organisations that commissioned the survey.

The Evangelical Alliance Statement and a table of results from the survey can be found here.

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