What might make voters change their minds over Brexit?

Woman working in a factory

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.

3 responses to “What might make voters change their minds over Brexit?”

  1. Brexit. The economy is key.We are having further cuts in council spending. With an economic slide after Brexit we will have even less money, how much will depend on the outcome of Brexit for public spending on social concerns etc. Trade deals take time to arrange. That alone means we will take a hit cos of the time to but them in place We will recover but when (50 yrs!?) are leavers prepared to wait?
    Chequers agreement.Why do people say it is dead? Is this the Brexiteers louder and more vocal who will not accept any deal? We must stay as close as possible to the EU to limit the damage that will be caused
    I remember when we were the 4th largest economy( showing my age). Now Tories boast we are the 6th. We need to re-organise the economy to keep up with the World but that does not mean we have to vote for a rapid economic decline for the rest to overtake us
    Nations are forming Trade groups, Canada/EU, Australia/Asia. If we do not ally ourselves (stay in the EU) with one we will be at a great disadvantage.

  2. I think it a little simplistic to say that “arguing over the economy didn’t work for the Remain camp in the 2016 referendum.”

    At the time I was about 60% in favour of Remain, 40% against. A key deciding argument and I suspect many remainers for me was that our economy would be severely damaged if we left the EU and the single market. That Remain got to 48% and arguably higher among the population as a whole as supposed to those that actually voted is actually pretty remarkable for a somewhat unloved remote institution that had been vilified mercilessly in the press for 40 years and seen by some as an attacking the British way of life – imposing litres and metres as supposed to pints and yards. For many of those 48% the economy would have been a deciding argument.

    Arguably the referendum was a “change election” when we hadn’t had one. Many People had been under pressure economically for many years – the status quo – including Europe and established politicians hadn’t delivered. It was at least worth trying a change. If the economy had been booming for many years – pretty clearly Remain would have won – why mess with something that was working? And many people thought it was also worth protecting their position and wages which they saw under pressure from European immigration. Obviously people are now seeing some rise in their wages and unemployment has been falling significantly.

  3. People’s opinions don’t change much because the source of much of their information keeps on pumping out the same old rubbish. I have heard several commentators make negative comments about Vince and how the Liberal Democrat pro-EU stance is not gaining much ground… well I wonder why.. Now if pigs could fly and the press would start to tell the full story, be rather more responsible in their job of informing the public, stop promoting barmy Boris to be our next PM and for once say ‘yes, the Liberal Democrats are right’ then I might be more optimistic.. at present the press, endorsed by the broadcasters, are leading the country like lambs to slaughter..

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