Given the huge amount of media coverage for Brexit, and the many twists and turns in the story since the 2016 referendum, it is striking how stable public opinion has been about it. Even granted the trend against Brexit in the polls, that trend is real but it also has been a gradual and (so far at least) fairly modest trend.
That’s because people’s values are such a major factor in determining their view on Brexit. Getting people to change their mind on the topic is not easy for a position so rooted in values.
Not all is static, however, as new research presented by John Curtice points out:
Voters have changed their minds quite considerably about various aspects of the Brexit process over the course of the last two years. Voters seem, for example, to have become somewhat less concerned about controlling EU migration, less convinced that British companies will be able to trade freely in the EU after Brexit, and much less inclined to believe that the UK will secure a good deal from the negotiations. Moreover, while they might, perhaps, have reached these conclusions for different reasons, these patterns are just as much in evidence among Leave voters as their Remain-supporting counterparts.
What is key, though, to keeping Remainers backing Remain and Leavers backing Leave is their views on the economic impact of Brexit:
Over 90% of those voters who voted Remain in June 2016 and who think that Britain’s economy will get worse as a result of Brexit say that they would vote the same way again in a second referendum. Equally, over 90% of those who backed Leave two years ago and who think the economy will be better off in the wake of Brexit state that they would vote Leave again. In short, hardly anyone who endorses ‘their’ side’s economic argument has changed their mind.
However, these figures fall off quite markedly among those who take a different view of the economics of Brexit. Only around three-quarters of those Remain voters who think that leaving the EU will not make much difference to the economy say they would vote Remain again, while the equivalent figure among Leave voters is much the same. Meanwhile, less than half of those Remain voters who are now of the view that Britain’s economy will be better off as a result of Brexit would vote the same way, while the same is true of Leave supporters who believe the economy will be worse off.
All of which means that for all that arguing over the economy didn’t work for the Remain camp in the 2016 referendum, it is still the best route for Remainers to win out:
It is what voters make of the economics of whatever deal is reached that is most likely to determine whether, at the conclusion of the negotiations, a majority of them still want to leave the EU or whether the balance of opinion has swung in the opposite direction.