Individual surveys do not give a clear picture, but in combining lots of them a marked shift emergesby Peter Kellner / May 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
One million Labour voters who backed Brexit two years ago are having second thoughts. This emerges from a special analysis of YouGov surveys conducted this year. It shows that, below the surface, public opinion is stirring. Significant numbers of younger Leave voters, as well as those supporting Labour in last year’s election, no longer think Brexit is right for Britain.
That is not all. The effects of demographic changes since the referendum are growing. Bluntly, older, mainly Leave, voters are dying—and younger, mainly Remain, voters are joining the electorate. There is a real prospect that if the people were given the final say on Brexit, they would vote for the UK to stay in the European Union.
The data on the shifts in public attitudes comes from more than 23,000 voters that YouGov has questioned since the start of the year. Respondents are asked whether we were right or wrong to vote for Brexit in 2016. Thirteen of 14 polls this year show slightly more people saying “wrong” than “right.” This indicates a small but consistent net move away from Brexit. However, in any single survey, too few people are having second thoughts to analyse in any detail. This has led to the conventional wisdom that shifts among the electorate are minor and, therefore, politically unimportant.
We can now see that this view is incomplete. By combining the results from all 14 surveys, we can explore the views of different sections of the electorate. And while movements have indeed been small among many sections, they have been much larger in some politically important groups.
Consider Labour voters. They divided two-to-one for Remain in the referendum. The large number of Labour Leave voters in party strongholds in the North and Midlands is one reason why the Party leadership and some of its MPs are wary of proclaiming a pro-European stance. However, YouGov’s combined data, which includes 7,671 people who voted Labour last year, reveals a marked shift. While only 7 per cent of Labour-Remain voters are having second thoughts (changing their minds or saying “don’t know”), as many as 28 per cent of Labour-Leave voters no longer back Brexit. Now Labour’s voters divide almost three-to-one in saying Brexit was the wrong choice. Pro-European Labour MPs have less reason to fear the views…