Politics, Government & Current Affairs

Poll for Sky News Reveals Breadth of Opinion over Europe

Our recent poll for Sky News (fieldwork 1st – 3rd June 2013) showed that a potential referendum on EU membership is currently balanced on a knife edge, with a referendum tomorrow predicted to be 51% in favour of leaving vs 49% wanting to remain a member – a statistical dead heat. It is possible that the recent debates in Parliament and unrest in the Conservative Party have slightly dampened enthusiasm for leaving, perhaps by drawing attention to the possibility of future renegotiation of membership terms.


The narrowness of the headline result, however, belies some sharply different opinions in different parts of the country, with the most Eurosceptic region, the North East of England, voting over 2:1 in favour of leaving, whilst the most pro-European region, Scotland, was over 2:1 against. Overall 7 of the 11 regions of Great Britain wanted to vote to leave the EU, whilst the other 4 (Scotland, the South-West, North-West and the most populous region, London) voting to remain a member.


A great deal of this opinion, however, is subject to change. 61% of ‘OUT’ voters would reconsider if certain key policy areas were renegotiated for the UK. Meanwhile 80% of current ‘IN’ voters would consider leaving if certain aspects of potential future EU integration were forced on the UK, being made to join the Euro chief among them. There is therefore considerable fluidity of opinion on both sides. On the other hand, the number one area people wanted to see renegotiated, “power to control immigration between EU countries”, is such a core feature of the single market that it is hard to see how it could possibly form part of any renegotiation package. In other words, people are currently hedging their bets in the hope of a major renegotiation, but may well find themselves disappointed if and when it finally comes.


Part of the uncertainty almost certainly stems from a lack of awareness of the EU and what exactly it means for the UK. Only 17% and 13% of respondents recognised a picture of the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy respectively, compared to 71% who recognised German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Clearly awareness of the EU’s institutions is very low in the UK, when compared with awareness of the politics of other prominent European countries.


Similarly only 37% of respondents correctly guessed from 6 options that there were 27 countries in the EU, which suggests only around 25% actually knew the correct response rather than guessing. 12% of respondents thought that there were as many as 36 countries in the EU. Meanwhile, of people who were not sure how they would vote in a referendum, the most common reason given was that they were “not sure what an ‘out’ vote would actually mean for the UK in terms of our new relationship with Europe”.


Full data tables and methodology details for this poll can be found here.

 — Report by Patrick Briône

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