Athletes and celebrities should not face repercussions for offensive remarks made in their teens, half of Britons believe.

A poll of 1,500 people found that 49 per cent disagreed that sports figures and other luminaries should face "negative consequences" for views that they had expressed as teenagers and later recanted.

Some 45 per cent of respondents said they approved of the condemnation by Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, of the England Cricket Board (ECB) for suspending Ollie Robinson, the England cricketer, for historical sexist and racist tweets, compared to 23 per cent who disapproved.

The findings, in a survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, suggest that the ECB may have been out of step with public opinion when it suspended Robinson, 27, last week following a furore over comments he posted when he was 18 and 19.

Asked about the incident, 35 per cent of respondents said they opposed Robinson’s suspension, 32 per cent supported the temporary ban from playing for England, and 21 per cent said they had no view either way.

The poll surveyed public opinion on a series of matters in which government ministers have intervened over perceived "culture wars" affecting almost all areas of public life.

The poll found that 44 per cent of people disagree with statues of historical figures being taken down if their views or actions are now considered unacceptable, compared to 30 per cent who said such monuments should be removed. 

Last week The Telegraph disclosed that more than 150 Oxford dons were boycotting Oriel College and refusing to teach its students in protest at its decision to keep a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist who founded Rhodesia. 

The academics were criticised by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, who said that Rhodes was "not a black and white figure" and, referring to those involved in the boycott, that students "should be lucky not to be taught by such a useless bunch".

Separately a majority of 53 per cent said they opposed the use of gender-neutral terms in place of words such as "mother", after it emerged that Stonewall, the LGBT+ charity, has advised organisations to use the term "parent who has given birth" in order to help boost their ranking on an equality leaderboard.

Meanwhile, under the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, universities would face fines for failing to protect free speech by banning speakers from addressing events on campus, but 41 per cent of respondents said they disagreed with the plans, while only 33 per cent said they backed the proposed penalties.