Polling tells us that attitudes are more nuanced than government slogans suggestby Bobby Duffy and Anand Menon / June 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
As President Trump continues his state visit, it serves as a reminder that our relationships with the outside world matter enormously but are the object of significant domestic contestation. The idea of “Global Britain” has in fact been a central, if underdeveloped, element of the government’s attempt to define a role for the country post-Brexit. To date, however, relatively little attention seems to have been paid to what the British public think the concept could or should mean. So the UK in a Changing EU and the Policy Institute at King’s College London has carried out some polling with Ipsos MORI on precisely this issue. And the findings cast a fascinating light our attitudes towards the UK’s international role post-Brexit.
It’s got to be said that the findings reveal we’re not starting from a great place. Over half of the public think that Brexit has harmed our standing on the world stage, including (unsurprisingly) eight in ten Remain supporters, and even three in ten Leave supporters. However, only a quarter of those who think we’ve been harmed believe the damage is irreversible, so roughly one in eight of the public.
And the public really don’t want us to throw in the towel. Three quarters think we should either increase our influence on the world stage or keep it the same as it is now, the same figure as in 2016. And both Leave and Remain voters are similarly likely to think that Britain’s international relationships generally have a positive impact on its economy, defence and security, and society and culture.
Interestingly, though, the response is not a call to embrace far greater activism. We seem to be a bit more reticent about flexing our muscles than we were in even the recent past: 53 per cent thought we should try to “punch above our weight” in world affairs in 2016 prior to the referendum, but that’s dropped to 40 per cent.
And this is perhaps the key theme that emerges from this survey—that public opinion is significantly more nuanced and complex than the rather simplistic narratives that dominate the ongoing debate over Brexit might lead us to believe.
So, for instance, there is not just one type of Leave supporter. A third of Leavers want Britain to protect itself from the…