More than a third of voters believe the Army will have to be brought in to deal with riots on British streets as the recession bites, a poll showed today.
The widespread fear of serious unrest was disclosed as a senior police officer warned activists were planning a "summer of rage" and could find rioters easier to recruit because of the credit crunch.
Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan Police's public order branch, said known activists were planning a return to the streets centred on April's G20 summit of world leaders in London.
And intelligence shows they may be able to call on more "footsoldiers" than normal due to the unprecedented conditions - which have led to youth violence in Greece and mass protests elsewhere in Europe.
YouGov polling for Prospect magazine found 37 per cent thought such "serious social unrest in several British cities" was certain or likely - although a slim majority (51 per cent) disagreed.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) said they feared a sustained return to mass unemployment.
And a clear majority (64 per cent) also favoured forcing the under-25s to do a year of full-time, modestly-paid community service such as working with the sick and elderly or helping with environmental projects.
Labour MP Frank Field told Prospect the main political parties should join forces to develop the idea.
"The time has come to look at this idea. A new bipartisan commission should be established to look into how it could be done, perhaps led by figures as respected as David Blunkett or David Davis," he said.
Although the biggest support for a compulsory scheme was among the older generations, a majority of 18-30 year olds (52 per cent) also gave it their backing.
Talking about the prospect of disorder, Mr Hartshorn told the Guardian: "Those people would be good at motivating people, but they haven't had the 'footsoldiers' to actually carry out [protests].
"Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that. Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest.
"We've got G20 coming and I think that is being advertised on some of the sites as the highlight of what they see as a 'summer of rage'," he told the newspaper.
Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's view on this is that of course he understands people's concerns and he also understands that people are angry, for example about the behaviour of some of the banks.
"That's why he is absolutely determined that the Government does everything possible to deal with those concerns and help people and businesses get through what is a global recession."
YouGov polled 2,270 people between February 10-12.Reuse content