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Brexit: testing voter patience

Andrew Horden Find Out Now Market Research

Andrew Horden

19th Sep, 2019 | 11 mins read

If you’re here in the UK, no matter how little interest you have in politics, you’ll almost definitely be aware of Brexit and more specifically, the delays, opinions and red-tape that has come with it. It seems no matter how far you run and hide, a headline, written opinion or speech about Brexit seems to pop up each and every day. 

As one of the UK’s fastest consumer insight platforms, we asked 100,000 UK residents just what they thought about the Brexit debacle – was it truly democratic? would people vote differently now? Is Boris  Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament unethical or just politics?

Back in April 2016, we asked the UK public whether they would vote to Remain or Leave the European Union in June 2016. What we found represented a more accurate outcome to what many reports predicted.

In just 30 minutes we received 4,430 responses, with the following results:

voter survey on if the 2016 brexit referendum and its better accuracy

Politics, ethics and voter opinion

A lot – depending on how you look at it – has happened since the referendum. We’ve had delays, debates and debacles in Government as well as discussions about the ethical nature and moral guidelines of both the Remain and Leave campaign.  

While most UK residents would vote the same as they did in 2016, more than twice as many people would now change there vote to vote remain (5.24%) compared to those who would change it to vote leave (1.82%).

The Leave campaign has undoubtedly come under the most fire recently with Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson taking the lion’s share of the scandals and accusations, most famously in the now falsified tagline: “We send the EU £350m a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.

As a result of highly publicised debates and reports of lying during the 2016 campaign, many have questioned whether the referendum was truly democratic in nature. 

With the UK Government reaching new heights of controversy and polarising debate around Brexit, we wanted to find out what UK residents would do today. If they were posed the same question about Brexit today as they faced in 2016, would they leave or remain?

We asked 100,000 UK residents “If you had the chance to vote again in the 2016 Brexit referendum, how would you vote?

UK opinion poll on how UK residents would vote if there were another Brexit referendum

While most UK residents would vote the same as they did in 2016, more than twice as many people would now change there vote to vote remain (5.24%) compared to those who would change it to vote leave (1.82%). 

This could be down to the current state of Brexit, opinions on the current Government, as well as the reported lies during the Leave campaign; it could also represent the UK’s patience on the whole Brexit saga – that, if given the chance, voting remain would save a lot of confusion and headaches.

Was the Brexit vote undemocratic?

However, does this still make the 2016 Brexit vote un-democratic? Arguably, the stance taken by those who wish to re-vote is that false-information was fed to the public, thwarting opinions and that therefore, people needed to be asked again knowing the truth. 

it shows us that huge swathes of the population could be completely unaware of how certain Government actions can affect big topics such as Brexit and, arguably, democracy itself.

However, the very construct of democracy could arguably be at stake when arguing the validity of a political agenda from certain political parties. 

We took it to the public again to ask:

“Brexit should be cancelled because the referendum was not democratic”

voter opinion poll on whether brexit should be cancelled

Interestingly, 50% of the public either disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement. While this could have been backed predominantly by Leave supporters, just 20% either agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.

Repercussions of proroguing UK Parliament

While the 2016 referendum may not be seen as being undemocratic, many have questioned the current Prime Minister’s move to suspend parliament. The recent move from Mr Johnson to prorogue parliament until the middle of October has been called “outrageous” and “profoundly undemocratic” by many MPs, as it would delay any discussion around Brexit until just prior to deadline day on October 31st. In fact, as of writing, Johnson’s move has been ruled unlawful by Scotland’s highest civil court. 

While the move to suspend parliament in order to deliver a new legislative agenda is not uncommon, it is timely and in the current circumstance, audacious. 

Is it taking democracy into one’s own hands?

What does the public think?

We asked 10,000 UK residents “Do you agree with Boris Jonson’s move to suspend parliament?”

market research poll on whether UK residents agree with Boris Johnson's prorogue of parliament

The majority of responses strongly disagreed (23%) with the move, while just 10% of UK residents said that strongly agreed. With high disapproval rates, the move is likely to increase people’s scepticism of the current Government and it’s approach to Brexit.

the move to suspend parliament didn’t fare well with “Remainers”, but did so with “Leavers”. Close to 70% of Remain voters disagreed with the move…

Interestingly, close to 20% of people simply “didn’t know”. This reflects more than just ignorance; it shows us that huge swathes of the population could be completely unaware of how certain Government actions can affect big topics such as Brexit and, arguably, democracy itself. On top of this, close to 10% simply didn’t care, while nearly 8% didn’t have an opinion, which could show a rising degree of apathy from the public.

Remain vs Leave

While many MP’s and those in No. 10 have defended the proroguing as a common, completely unrelated event to Brexit, there has been a clear divide in opinion from MPs. We wanted to find out whether opinions on a suspended parliament related to people’s vote on the 2016 Brexit referendum. 

Therefore, we segmented the question by those who voted to leave the EU and those who voted to remain.

We asked 3,888 Remain voters and 3,629 Leave voters how they felt about a suspended parliament:

survey poll on Brexit leavers and remainers opinion on suspending UK parliament

It’s clear, that the move to suspend parliament didn’t fare well with “Remainers”, but did so with “Leavers”. Close to 70% of Remain voters disagreed with the move, compared to the 3% of remain voters who did agree. However, Leave voters weren’t as passionate; just over 50% of Leave voters agreed with the move, while 9% disagreed. This could mean that Leave voters are more open to changing their minds on the leadership behind Brexit, which could have been fueled by recent reports around the Leave campaign and/or the subsequent delays and issues surrounding the Brexit process.

What has Brexit done to voters?

While there has been much debate over suspending parliament, the majority of UK residents do not deem it unethical, nor do they see the Brexit vote as undemocratic. Yet, debates continue to swirl and tempers remain inflamed, especially in parliament, insight suggests that the public is simply getting fed up.

The local elections earlier this year saw both the labour and conservative party lose 82 and 1,334 seats respectively, which may reflect a lack of faith from the UK public to address and resolve the Brexit fiasco.

There is a stubborn divide in the UK public that’s become evident through Brexit. We’ve found that most UK residents wouldn’t change their Brexit vote regardless of time and the actions taken in Westminster. In fact, the opinions on No. 10’s action to prorogue only exemplifies the sheer degree of political polarisation in this country.

So what does this mean for the future? No one, not even MP’s, appear to have a solid answer. For now, the UK public appear to be in limbo, simply waiting and wondering what drama will unfold next. The question is, how long will the public’s patience last? With cross-party unification to address Brexit seemingly a low priority in Westminster, the consequences on the UK economic and political scene are beginning to show. The true socio-cultural impact, however, remains to be seen.

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