What led to the riots

Riots in LondonThe British Election Study Continuous Monitoring Survey found nothing distinctive in the British public's attitude towards protest activity or towards the economy in the run-up to the riots. Some people were angry about the economy, but they had felt like this for the previous two or three years. There is no evidence from this that there was an increasing and general social malaise encouraging riotous behaviour.

Research by Professor David Waddington at Sheffield Hallam University confirms that riots are not simply irrational and mindless group behaviours, without any reason or logic to them. Even the most destructive acts of group or gang violence are commonly underpinned by purpose.

However, evidence on straining relations between young people and the rest of society is growing. Recent research by the British Social Attitudes Survey has shown that there is a well-developed sense of discrimination among the young which might serve as a catalyst for resentment and inter-generational conflict - the protests over increased student fees being a sign of such tensions.

And research by the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion found that riots are often provoked by people feeling shut out of decisions and control.