British public turns against referendums

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
March 28, 2017, 10:05 AM UTC

In 2012 Brits were more likely to say they wanted the nation’s big issues to be decided by referendum. Now there is a twenty point lead for letting Parliament decide

Nine months after the EU referendum shook the country to its foundations, and with the prospect of another volatile plebiscite in Scotland, new YouGov research finds that the British public have turned against using referendums to settle important matters of public policy.

In January 2012, when we last asked the question, the pro-referendum crowd had the edge. A plurality (45%) of Brits thought that referendums would be the best way to settle Britain’s four or five biggest policy decisions each year, whilst 39% thought that they should be left for Parliament to deal with.

Today, the reverse is true. By a twenty point margin, Britons now believe that big policy decisions should be for Parliament to consider (50%) rather than be put to a referendum (30%).

Unsurprisingly, Remain voters are the group most against referendums, with two thirds thinking that Parliament should decide on big policy decisions. Interestingly, Leave voters also want such issues be left to Parliament, albeit by a much smaller margin (44% vs 39%).

In party political terms, those who voted for one of the three traditional main parties in 2015 are heavily against further referendums. UKIP voters, on the other hand, are the only ones who want big policy issues put to the public (51%) instead of the legislature (30%).

There is also a strong class divide. The middle class are overwhelmingly against referendums (61% vs 26%) while the working are evenly split 35%-36%.

Photo: PA

See the full results here