— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) March 25, 2017
But overall most of those sampled continue to be against
Listeners to this week’s (revamped) PB/Polling Matters podcast (see below) will know that we have a new survey out this week. Our most recent poll tracks public opinion on last year’s Brexit vote. In December, we asked a nationally representative sample of the British public whether they thought there should be another vote on EU membership once the terms of divorce are known and we asked the same question again last weekend.
In some ways the results offer something for everyone. At a headline level, a majority are opposed to another referendum, with exactly the same number in opposition now as were opposed in December (52%). This is primarily because Leave voters continue to be committed to the decision they made last year. However, there has been a 5 point increase in the overall number in favour of another vote. This appears to be driven by those that said ‘don’t know’ in December now saying that they support another referendum with Remainers particularly consolidating behind such a position.
Q. Once we know what terms the government has negotiated, should there be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, where voters can choose between leaving under the terms negotiated or remaining in the EU after all?
Now for a number of reasons we shouldn’t get too exercised by these findings. These results could be a one-off and there is little sign of consistent Brexit regret in opinion polls. Theresa May certainly has no interest in holding another referendum and the Labour Party is not calling for one (despite some 60% of their voters in favour). However, we should still keep an eye on these numbers. If this trend is real and continues then expect someone of signifance in the Labour Party to come out in support in the future. In any case, if the opinion of the Remain vote is hardening on this subject, the potential for that group of people being a significant organised political force in the longer term only grows.
Incidentally, a fascinating subplot in Britain’s political future will be how the opinion of Millennials evolves on this issue. 53% of 18-34s support another vote with just 34% opposing. Now this shouldn’t surprise given what we know about the composition of the Remain vote in 2016. The question is whether such attitudes will change as these voters get older or are they set in stone (as they are on certain cultural issues)? If they are, expect the issue of Britain’s position in Europe be a live one long beyond we have officially left the EU.
Article 50 brings sky-high expectations
Turning our attention to this week, our poll also asked how confident the British public is on the type of Brexit deal May and the government will deliver:
How confident are you that Theresa May and the British government will be able to negotiate a Brexit deal that is good for the UK?
41% Not confident
10% Don’t know
Expectations here are split in ways you would expect that I won’t therefore dwell on e.g. Remain vs Leave, Labour vs Conservative, young vs old and so on. However, what is striking is the confidence of Leave voters. Some 72% are confident a ‘good deal’ can be delivered. Now what a ‘good deal’ tangibly means to them and whether May can meet those expectations is going to be critical for her political survival. Meanwhile, we should also pay attention to the one area of the UK with the lowest confidence in any Brexit deal. That is Scotland where 62% are pessimistic that a ‘good deal’ can be reached. Ominous signs.
Much is made of the apparent finality of the 2016 vote in terms of the European question. It may very well be so given the state of the Labour Party right now. But I can’t help but feel that things could change and change quickly should Brexit negotiations go badly. You need tunnel vision not to see that there is a path for a ‘second referendum’ becoming a major political issue. In any case, we are now approaching the ‘business end’ of Brexit. The time for words is nearly over. Now Theresa May has to deliver.
Keiran Pedley presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast (latest episode below) and tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley
Check out the latest podcast below:
Notes on the poll: Opinium surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,003 GB adults online between 17-21 March, 2017. Tables will be available on their website in due course.