A 50/50 nationby Peter Kellner / March 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
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Voter stereotypes are often wrong. Forget “Mondeo Man” and “Worcester Women”: there was—and still is—nothing special about them. On most issues, different groups vary less than might be imagined. On taxation, say, or the health service, or welfare reform, there is a large overlap in the views of Daily Mail and Guardian readers, young and old voters, university graduates and those with few qualifications—even Ukip supporters and Liberal Democrats.
Europe is different. A special analysis for Prospect of recent YouGov surveys uncovers unusually deep divisions in public attitudes. For once, the differences do match the stereotypes. There is a huge contrast between the kinds of people wanting Britain to stay in the European Union and those wanting Brexit.
A separate survey, conducted for Prospect, explores the roots of this division. It finds that voters on both sides of the debate agree that Britain’s economic problems are still severe. What divides them is what has caused these problems. But it is a measure of the downbeat mood of the nation as the referendum approaches that, given a choice of 14 EU countries in which to live, including the UK, most of us would pick one of the other 13.
Let’s start with the basic in-out numbers. YouGov questioned more than 16,000 people during the two weeks following the agreement between David Cameron and the rest of the EU heads of government on changes to Britain’s terms of membership. A sample this size allows us to look at sub-groups with some confidence. Overall, our sample splits 50-50 among those who take sides. We detected a mo…