NEWS24 June 2016

Public saw EU referendum as most important vote in a generation

Brexit News Public Sector Trends UK

UK – Following the historic vote for the UK to leave the EU, insight agency Opinium and the London School of Economics has released an in-depth report exploring people’s attitudes to the referendum and the debate as a whole.

The online study followed the views of a fixed panel of 3,000 UK adults over the course of several months, (first wave n= 3,000; second wave 2,000, third wave in-field) with the aim to understand the psychology of the EU membership referendum vote among the British public.

It found that more than half ( 54%) of the public saw the EU membership referendum as the most important vote in a generation, and among the top three for 81%.

The referendum has highlighted a clash between the generations. Those under 40 and those above had entirely different outlooks on whether to remain in the EU or leave, with the young expecting to be particularly affected by the UK leaving the EU.

But while the arguments put forward by the Leave camp met with significantly higher scepticism than those by the Remain camp, even among supporters of Brexit, the single most important argument for Brexit was seen as immigration while those of the Remain camp were more split.

When it came to spontaneous associations with the ideas of ‘leaving the EU’ or ‘remaining part of it’ Brexiting resulted in a mixed bag of negative visions (Fear, Uncertainty, Danger, or even Catastrophe) and a positive hope for Freedom. By contrast, the prospect of remaining evoked more globally positive words – Reassurance, Safety, Security, Unity, and even Happiness.

James Endersby, managing director, Opinium, said: "It has been thrilling teaming up with the London School of Economics ECREP electoral psychology team for the past six years studying how and why people make their voting decisions in the UK and around the world.

"Our final poll from the day before the referendum showed a win for the Leave camp ( 51% vs Remain on 49.2 ), and indeed we were proved to be spot on. Brexit is now a reality. This in-depth study provides a thorough and complete academic review into the public’s hearts and minds and how the result of this unique moment in time will affect the behaviours and attitudes of British households for years to come."

Professor Michael Bruter from the department of government at the LSE said; “On the whole, our study relies on over 300 measures taken over three time periods with 3,008 respondents. This is beyond the scope of literally any of the EU Membership Referendum studies that has, or will be, discussed in the media before and after the vote.”