Public divide on EU narrows

January 17, 2013, 12:45 PM GMT+0

Public divide on in/out EU referendum narrows in lead-up to Cameron speech

The proportion of the British public who say they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum were held has fallen, while the percentage of people who say they would vote for Britain to stay in the EU has risen, according to the latest YouGov poll.

Asked how they would vote in an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union, 42% say they would vote to leave, 36% would vote to stay and the rest are either unsure (17%) or wouldn’t vote at all (4%).

In November, 51% of Britons said they would vote to leave the EU, but that number fell to 46% in a poll conducted January 2-3rd and now stands at 42%. In the November poll the percentage of people who said they would vote for Britain to remain an EU member stood at 30%, but rose to 31% in the earlier January survey and now sits at 36%.

Different referendum questions

A majority (59%) of the British public support holding a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union, while only 21% are opposed and 20% are unsure, according to our latest poll for the Sunday Times.

It has been reported that David Cameron is to announce that he will renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe, seeking to bring back some powers to Britain. He will then hold a referendum asking people to choose between Britain staying in the EU under renegotiated terms or leaving the EU completely.

  • 48% think that Britain should renegotiate our relationship with Europe, and then hold a referendum on whether to approve the new relationship or leave totally
  • 22% think that Britain should hold a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union as it is or leave totally
  • 17% think there should not be any sort of referendum on Europe
  • 13% don’t know

Asked to imagine if David Cameron renegotiated the UK’s relationship with Europe and said that Britain's interests were now protected, and recommended that Britain remain a member of the European Union on new terms, and 50% say they would vote to stay in the EU, while 25% say they would still vote to leave, and the rest are either unsure (20%) or wouldn’t vote at all (5%).

Commenting on the results, YouGov Director of Political and Social Research Joe Twyman said: “The key finding from all YouGov’s recent polls is that when it comes to our relationship with Europe, the British electorate does not support the status quo. What most people want is for Britain to stay part of the EU, but on what they regard as more favourable, renegotiated terms. The public want a referendum to decide, but it should be noted that when we ask people if they want a referendum on almost any subject the answer is virtually always ‘yes’. When given a straight in/out choice, currently public opinion is strongly towards withdrawal, and when given the option of staying in the EU on renegotiated terms there is still only 50% support. Therefore, David Cameron will have to hope he is able to persuade enough voters that whatever negotiation he does achieve is accepted by the British people, because if he doesn’t then we could well be headed for the Brexit he hopes to avoid.”

Public opinion in Europe

According to our latest EuroTrack survey, which tracks public opinion in Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway, of the EU members we surveyed support for membership is lowest in Britain (31%) and highest in Denmark (56%).

European Parliament elections

YouGov’s most recent poll on voting intention for the European Parliament elections, set to be held between 5 and 8 June 2014, have the Labour party leading with 38% support, followed by the Conservatives at 27%, UKIP at 17%, and the Liberal Democrats at 12%.

However, as YouGov President Peter Kellner recently wrote in The Huffington Post, with 17 months to go until the elections voting figures at this stage are “of little predictive use” and could change substantially between now and June 2014.

EU awareness

YouGov research shows that 95% of the British public cannot name any of the MEPs in their area. Just over one in seven (15%) Liberal Democrats can name one of the people representing them in the European Parliament, compared to 5% of Conservatives and 4% of Labour supporters.

The survey found that 92% of Britons cannot name Herman van Rompuy as the president of the European Council. Liberal Democrats were the most likely to be able to name him (15%) followed by Conservatives (12%) and Labour supporters (4%).

For more information, or to arrange an interview contact YouGov PR Executive Harris MacLeod