Last week, Brexit experienced an unexpected turn of events when the UK’s High Court made a ruling that essentially placed the impending exit on hold. The ruling would require the Government to have support from the MPs in Parliament before triggering Article 50 (beginning discussions with the EU to implement Brexit), which Theresa May had planned for March 31st.

With these ongoing shifts in mind, we were interested in finding out what the UK’s divided population wants for their future. From our survey conducted in August 2016, we grouped respondents into two categories: Europhiles, or those with a positive opinion of the EU and Eurosceptics, those with a negative opinion. We used the survey responses to answer the following questions:

1. How large is the divide between the UK’s Eurosceptics and Europhiles?

36% of the UK has a positive opinion of the EU and 34% has a negative opinion, while the remainder is neutral. This roughly even split corresponds closely with the referendum results, given the 72% voting turnout. Compared to the rest of Europe, the UK’s divide isn’t any larger: the divide across the rest of Europe’s 27 countries is 33% positive and 35% negative.

2. Who are the Eurosceptics and the Europhiles?

Eurosceptics are more likely to be male (+10 percentage points), older (+10), lower educated (-22), and rural (+8) than Europhiles. Even though Eurosceptics have the same levels of disposable income as Europhiles, they are more likely to feel financially insecure (+13) and job insecure (+7). Lastly, Eurosceptics are much more likely to feel “very worried” about immigration (+26) and are far less positive about their government (-23).

 

3. What are the perceived advantages and disadvantages of the EU?

The best thing about the EU for both anti-EU and pro-EU groups is that “it makes travel in Europe easier”: 67% of Europhiles and 44% of Eurosceptics agree. The biggest disagreement, however, is about the economy: only 9% of sceptics agree that the EU contributes positively to economic growth, compared to 53% of the philes. In the graph below we only included the top results, but there were a total of 13 response options.

For both Europhiles and Eurosceptics, the worst aspects of the EU are that “it lets in too many immigrants” and “assigns too many rules and regulations”. Though these are the top two issues for both groups, a far greater share of Eurosceptics are concerned. The two groups disagree the most about the following statements: “The EU makes very poor decisions” and “I prefer my own government to have control”. About half of Eurosceptics agree with these statements, while just 10-13% of Europhiles agree to the same. In the graph below we only included the top results, but there were a total of 12 response options.

 

4. What do they want from the EU?

When we asked respondents “What should the European Union focus on over the next two years” both pro-EU and anti-EU groups showed high levels of support to “make the public more aware of what the EU does”, and to “invest in an intelligence service to combat terrorism”.

However, both camps agreed on little else. On one hand, Eurosceptics show much higher support for the EU to “increase border security to restrict immigration from outside the EU” (49%) and “limit migration between EU countries” (48%). On the other, Europhiles are significantly more likely to want the EU to “increase economic aid to developing countries” (38%). In the graph below we only included the top results, but there were a total of 12 response options.

 

5. How do these groups feel about the UK’s economy?

People in the UK are polarized about their expectations for the future. They are more likely to expect their country’s economy to worsen over the next 12 months (38%) than the rest of the European population (29%), and also more likely to expect their economy to improve (31%) than other Europeans (24%). However, when comparing the anti-EU and pro-EU expectations in the UK, neither groups is more optimistic than the other. In a period of so much uncertainty, perhaps it is no surprise that both groups are torn between expecting the best and the worst.

 

The results are based on the most recent wave of “EuroPulse”, which was conducted between August 2, 2016 and August 19, 2016. The sample of n=11,754 was drawn across all 28 EU Member States, taking into account current population distributions with regard to age (14-65 years), gender and region/country. The unweighted sample size for UK was n=1,104. An estimation of the overall design effect based on the distribution of weights was calculated at 1.59 at the global level. Calculated for a sample of this size and considering the design-effect, the margin of error would be +/-1.1 % at a confidence level of 95%.

If you’re interested in a deeper look at the concept of a European Identity, democratic representation within the EU, Euroscepticism within 8 additional EU member states, or what Europeans want for the future of the EU, contact us for the full dataset.

For a post-brexit snapshot of consumer confidence and predictions for how future spending will affect industries across Europe, check out our European Consumer Confidence Report.