Queen's message is a national turn-off

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The Independent Online
DRAMATICALLY fewer people plan to watch or listen to the Queen's Christmas message tomorrow, following years of unprecedented royal scandals, an opinion poll for the Independent on Sunday suggests, writes Nick Cohen.

Just 20 per cent of 16- to 55-year-olds questioned by the Mori research company said that they would make the effort to hear the monarch's annual broadcast to the nation. That is exactly half the figure recorded in a similar survey conducted in 1991.

Many television viewers, in fact, will be resolutely watching something on another channel, since our survey last week found that 74 per cent of those questioned expected to watch television at Christmas.

The Queen's score only narrowly beats computer games (18 per cent) as a favoured way to pass time at Christmas, and falls far behind board games (34 per cent). Almost as many people (18 per cent) said they expected to have a family row as said they would watch the broadcast.

The Mori poll - based on a representative sample of 1,003 people - is in line with other findings which suggest that recent years have seen a collapse in respect for the House of Windsor.

In 1984, 77 per cent of those questioned felt Britain would be worse off if the country became a republic, and poll findings remained constant until 1987, when the first signs that the Prince of Wales's marriage was in trouble appeared.

Support for the monarchy suffered a catastrophic drop to 37 per cent in 1992 after Andrew Morton's book about the bitter collapse of Prince Charles's marriage appeared, and it continued at this low level as the transcripts of the Camillagate and Squidgygate tapes were circulated. It was 1993 that the Queen memorably referred to as her "annus horribilis".

The latest polls have found that 60 per cent believe the country would be better off if the monarchy was abolished.

Full Xmas survey, page 2 Mumbo-jumbo, page 4