Britons see leaving as risky—but that might not stop them voting for itby Peter Kellner / June 18, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Britain is likely to say a clear but reluctant Yes to staying in the European Union in the coming referendum. We don’t like or trust the EU, but we doubt whether Britain can prosper if we left the club. It will be a majority based on fear, not love.
This month’s YouGov poll for Prospect is the first to ask the precise question that the government plans to put on the ballot paper: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” We found a 10-point lead for Yes: 44-34 per cent. Leaving aside those who say “don’t know” or would not vote, this equates to a 57-43 per cent vote to stay in the EU.
It’s a comfortable lead, and consistent with other surveys YouGov has conducted this year, asking the question slightly differently. However, on its own it does not mean that a Yes majority is inevitable. It needs only a modest shift for the lead to disappear—and remember how much opinion oscillated in Scotland last year, before the country voted by 55-45 per cent to remain in the UK. And it’s not long since we had more people wanting to leave the EU than remain a member. No was ahead as recently as last November; and just three years ago, it led by as much as 64-36 per cent.
Nor should those figures cause surprise. We have been tracking trust in elite groups for some years, and consistently find that “senior officials in the EU” are trusted even less than British politicians and civil servants. Our annual polls for Chatham House find that clear majorities of Britons resent EU laws and regulations, and blame the EU for the influx of immigrants.