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Britain should protect Falkland Islands 'at all costs', say 61% of voters

Guardian/ICM poll: Conservatives most strident in opposition to negotiated handover as war's anniversary approaches

Sean Penn, Roger Waters and Morrissey may have all spoken out in favour of Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands, but the British people remain doggedly determined to defend the South Atlantic archipelago, according to a Guardian/ICM poll.

As the 30th anniversary of the conflict approaches and with Prince William fresh from his "routine" posting, 61% of voters say that "Britain should protect the Falklands so long as the islanders want protecting, no matter what the cost".

That is against just 32% who believe Britain must "be ready to negotiate with Argentina over the eventual handover" of this "distant outpost of a forgotten era".

This near two-to-one margin suggests that Argentinian complaints about "imperialism" and "militarisation" have failed to carry across the 8,000 miles of ocean that separate the islands from the British "mainland".

There is a clear overall majority for defending the Falklands across all social classes, regions and nations, save for Wales. But even there protecting the Falklanders at all costs receives 49% backing, as opposed to 39% of support for negotiating a handover.

Women are somewhat less hardline than men, who split 66%-29% against negotiation, but female voters nonetheless endorse the "no matter what the cost" commitment to the islanders by a substantial margin, of 56% to 35%.

Not surprisingly, it is Conservative voters who are most strident in their determination to protect the fruits of Margaret Thatcher's military victory. By 78% to 20% they reject moving towards a negotiated handover. Labour and Liberal Democrat voters are somewhat more evenly split, but even here there are respective majorities of 54% and 60% for defending the islanders at all costs.

Only among the very youngest voters, aged 18 to 24, is there a strikingly different picture. Among this cohort – none of whom were born when Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982 – 49% support negotiations with a view to handover, as opposed to just 39% who take the contrary view. Among all other age groups there is a 60-70% majority for standing firm on sovereignty.

• ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 16 and 18 March 2012. 850 interviews were conducted on landlines and 150 on mobile phones. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules

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