LONDON, March 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
Lord Ashcroft Europe poll:
- Britain evenly divided on EU membership; 1 in 5 don't know
- 62% think other countries get more out of EU than Britain does
- Voters doubt Cameron will win better terms in renegotiation
Voters are evenly split over whether or not Britain should remain in the EU, according to new research from Lord Ashcroft. Nearly two thirds (62%) believe other countries seem to get more out of EU membership than Britain does, and voters are more likely to think the costs of membership outweigh the benefits (49%) than the reverse (31%).
The findings are published today in Europe on Trial, a report by Lord Ashcroft based on a poll of more than 20,000 people. He also held a discussion event involving 80 members of the public representing a cross-section of opinion towards Britain's relationship with Europe.
The research found:
- 41% think Britain should remain a member of the EU; 41% think we should leave. 18% said "don't know".
- 62% believe other countries get more out of EU membership than Britain does; only 23% think Britain seems to benefit at least as much as other EU members.
- More people think the costs of EU membership outweigh the benefits (49%) than that the benefits outweigh the costs (31%).
- Only 20% say they have confidence that David Cameron will be able to renegotiate a better deal for Britain within the EU; 72% do not. Of those who lack confidence, 51% doubt other countries will be prepared to make concessions however well Cameron argues; 26% doubt his ability as a negotiator; and 23% think he wants Britain to remain in the EU regardless.
- Just under seven in ten (69%) would rather live in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. Nearly one in five UKIP voters (19%) say they would rather live in another European country than in Britain.
- Voters are evenly divided over whether leaving the EU would damage trade between the UK and other EU countries (43%) or whether we would be able to do just as much trade with them as we do now (42%).
- People are slightly more likely to think being an EU member gives Britain more influence when dealing with China and the USA (40%) than less (31%) - but nearly three in ten (29%) don't know.
The research identified five segments of opinion towards Britain and the EU:
Committed Hostility (19% of the population): 95% say Britain should leave the EU; 86% say immigration is one of the three most important issues facing the country; 58% think UKIP would do the best job of managing Britain's relationship with Europe.
Discontented Sceptics (27% of the population): 88% think the costs of EU membership outweigh the benefits but only 68% want to leave; most likely to say the Conservatives would do the best job of managing relations with Europe but few are confident that Cameron's renegotiation will succeed.
Relaxed Status Quo (26% of the population): do not rate defending Britain's interests in Europe as one of the most important issues facing the country; two thirds think the benefits of membership outweigh the costs; 83% say Britain should stay in the EU.
Global Progressives (12% of the population): positive about EU membership; the only segment among whom a majority (86%) think Britain gets as much out of the EU as other countries do; younger, professional, more public sector workers and Labour voters.
Disengaged (15% of the population): younger, less likely to vote; 82% say they do not know if costs of membership outweigh benefits; 61% do not know whether Britain should remain an EU member.
In his introduction to the Europe on Trial report, Lord Ashcroft says:
"Those who say the whole country is clamouring for a referendum are wrong. Some, certainly, think it is the greatest question of our time. But even among the most hostile voters, only a third put Europe among the most crucial issues facing the country, and only a quarter think it important to them and their families. That is why Cameron's 'negotiate and decide' policy will please some voters but won't win the election all by itself.
"More to the point, many people say they don't know enough to make such a fundamental choice about Britain's future. Two thirds think what happens in the European Parliament matters to Britain, but three quarters have hardly a clue what goes on there. They do not feel in a position to decide.
"Part of the problem is that sceptics think the EU appeals most to a remote and privileged few, while many pro-Europeans think their opponents are narrow-minded and jingoistic. To everyone else, it seems a noisy argument in which facts are hard to come by and most of the participants seem more than a bit bonkers."
Lord Ashcroft concludes:
"For now, the sceptics are making the running. But my polling shows people will want to be reassured about our prospects outside the EU before making the leap - and that the better-off-outers in particular need to take care not to sound too batty.
"The pro side, meanwhile, seem hesitant about their case. Fear of the unknown is their greatest ally, but many voters want to hear more than a defensive message that Britain can't survive alone."
Notes to Editors
- Europe on Trial is available to download at http://www.LordAshcroftPolls.com, along with the full poll results and details of all Lord Ashcroft's research.
- 20,058 adults were interviewed online between 7 and 20 January 2014. Results were weighted to be representative of the population of Great Britain.
- A deliberative research event involving 80 members of the public representing a cross-section of opinion towards Britain and the EU was held in London on 6 March 2014.
- Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, author and philanthropist. He is founder and Chairman of the Board of Crimestoppers, a member of the Board of the Imperial War Museum, Chairman of the Trustees of Ashcroft Technology Academy, Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University and Treasurer of the International Democrat Union. From 2005 to 2010 he was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.
- His political books and research papers include Smell The Coffee (2005), Minority Verdict, What Future For Labour?, What Future For The Liberal Democrats? (2010), Crime, Punishment & The People, Project Blueprint, The Leadership Factor (2011), Degrees of Separation, The Armed Forces & Society, Blue Collar Tories, Project Red Alert, They're Thinking What We're Thinking: Understanding The UKIP Temptation (2012), What Are The Liberal Democrats For?, Marginal Territory, Are You Serious: Boris, The Tories And The Voters; Small Island: Public Opinion And The Politics Of Immigration (2013); and Cameron's Caledonian Conundrum (2013).
- You can follow Lord Ashcroft on Twitter: @LordAshcroft.