With the transition period almost over, by 51% to 40% Britons think we were wrong to vote to leave

Fintan SmithPolitical Researcher
December 22, 2020, 9:31 AM UTC

A small portion of Leave voters have changed their minds since the referendum

With Britain set to leave the transition period – the year where the country has continued to follow EU rules despite having left the body – on 31 December, the last vestige of our EU membership will shortly be gone. New YouGov data shows that, on the cusp of this milestone, Britons think it was the wrong decision to vote to leave the EU in the first place, by 51% to 40%.

Amongst Remain voters, 88% now believe it was the wrong decision to leave the EU, with just 8% believing it to be the right decision. Amongst Leave voters these figures are effectively reversed, with 82% believing it to be the right decision to leave the EU versus 11% who believe it to be the wrong decision.

Since YouGov began asking this question in 2016, there has been an overall shift from right decision to wrong decision. Up until May 2017, just after then Prime Minister Theresa May called the 2017 general election, we consistently found that more believed that leaving the EU was the right decision than wrong.

However, the margin between right vs wrong then began to narrow, and since the end of August 2017 we have consistently found that a greater proportion of Brits believe leaving the EU to be the wrong decision than the right one. Minus a few minor spikes, most notably following the withdrawal agreement passing through the Commons, the proportion who believe it to be the right decision has continued to fall gradually whilst those who believe it to be the wrong decision has continued to rise.

It is possible that the shift we’ve observed is in part because of a changing electorate, with greater numbers of younger people – who are more likely to be pro-Remain – coming of age. But there is also evidence that some Leave voters have changed their minds.   

With the exception of the brief spike following the the passage of the withdrawal agreement, amongst Remain voters the numbers have remained relatively consistent since 2016. During that time the percentage believing it to be the wrong decision has generally been 87-90%, with only about 4-8% considering it the wrong decision.

However, among Leave voters there has been more of a change in opinion over the last four years. While the proportion who believe leaving to still be the right decision has fallen from 90% in August of 2016 down to the low 80s, the proportion believing it to be the wrong thing to do has risen from 2-4% to 10%-13%.

See the full results here and here