Brits divided over feelings towards EU

European Union

Tuesday’s YouGov poll for the Sun indicates that mixed feelings towards the EU and draws battle lines for potential referendum

The EU is going to have an impact in this year’s general election, with UKIP coming to the forefront of British politics and with the Conservatives promising an in/out referendum on EU membership following a set of renegotiations.

The YouGov did not ask respondents how they would vote if presented with a question on EU membership, but asked them how they thought an exit would effect them politically, economically and personally.

When respondents were asked:

'Do you think Britain would be better or worse off economically if we left the European Union, or would it make no difference?'

A total of 27% (-3% from the last time the question was asked) said ‘better off’, compared to the 39% (+2%) who said they thought Britain would be economically worse off. The widening gap suggests that Brits could be getting increasingly nervous over EU exit as the election draws nearer. 16% said it would make no difference.

On the issue of influence on the world stage, 10% (-2%) said the UK would have less, whilst a much larger 43% (+2%) said they thought that the countries influence would be diminished outside the union. However, 33% said would make no difference, meaning that when ‘more influence’ and ‘no difference’ are grouped together, their total equals the share saying that the UK would have less influence.

Furthermore, in bad news for those hoping for an ‘out’ vote if the country gets a referendum, 37% (no change) thought a Brexit would be ‘bad for jobs an employment’, whilst 26% (+2%) thought the opposite. 21% said it would make no difference.

Respondents were then asked:

‘And do you think you personally would be better or worse off if we left the European Union, or would it make no difference?’

17% (-3%) said ‘better off’, whilst 23% (-1%) said ‘worse off’. Despite more people saying that they thought that a Brexit would make them worse off, a large 42% said they thought it would make no difference to their personal lives.

Overall, the poll indicates a division in Britain. The general trend is that when just looking at more/less influence and better/worse off, more people think that the country would be worse off/less influental. However, when those who say they think an exit would not affect the country in such ways, then it appears to suggest that there is a chunk of society who would not be opposed to an exit, but would also be unopposed to staying in the union.

Many see the EU as harmful, whilst many others see it as beneficial, but there is a large sector of society who think leaving would not have negative effects. It is these voters that - if the country eventually has a referendum - will be fought over by the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns.

More importantly, these polls are just snapshots of what society currently thinks and could change dramatically if the country enters an official campaign. Remember how dramatically public opinion changed in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum.

As the election draws nearer, so to does a potential EU referendum, and the battle lines are already being drawn. The battle - for either side - is far from won.

The full results of the YouGov poll can be accessed here. 1552 GB adults were interviewed between the 8th and 9th of February.

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