With just over a year to go before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the question of Brexit remains divisive. Where is public opinion currently?
The Brexit continues at a good pace with the controversy on its heels.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently proposed that the country abandon both the single market and the customs union. However, the opposition Labor Party responded that they should remain in a customs union.
Former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair suggested that Parliament should be prepared to reject any “difficult” agreement and consider holding a second referendum, a possibility dismissed by Brexit advocates.
None of this could matter if May had a secure majority in the House of Commons and a parliamentary group that was united in its support for Brexit.
But it does not have either, so the speculation continues that the vote to leave the EU could still be revoked .
However, is there any reason to believe that the result could be different if the question were presented again to the voters?
After all, the result in June 2016 was quite close: 52% in favor of leaving the EU against 48% in favor of staying. There should not be many people who change their minds to issue a different verdict.
Surveys that ask how they would vote now have been relatively few.
But those that have been carried out suggest that there may have been a small change in favor of remaining .The four most recent surveys, conducted by BMG Research and Survationbetween November and January, show 52% in favor of staying and 48% that they want to leave.
By contrast, four surveys conducted towards the end of 2016 showed that 51% still wanted to leave the EU against 49% who wanted to stay.
Similarly, four recent surveys – conducted by ICM and ComRes between December and March – that analyzed how people could vote in a second referendum, although without raising the exact original question, are also favorable to remain at 51% compared to 49%
The most regular readings of how voters now view Brexit have been provided by a question YouGov asked its respondents shortly after the referendum: “In retrospect, do you think the country was right or is it wrong to vote to leave the EU?”.
There is a clear, although dramatic trend
Until the general election last year, those who responded that the decision to leave the EU was “correct” narrowly outnumbered those who said “incorrect”.
Since the elections, the opinion has been reversed, and those who say that the decision is “incorrect” are a little more numerous than those who answered “correct”.
Therefore, all survey data point in the same direction: there seems to be a slight drop in Brexit support.
But at this point you have to be very careful. Opinion polls are not always totally accurate.
When the polls are as close as in the case of Brexit, the only sensible judgment we can make is that the result of any second referendum will be too fair to call it.
All that can be said with certainty is that the United Kingdom is divided into two as it was in June 2016.
The uncertainty about the outcome of any future referendum is highlighted when we look under the hood of the polls.
The reason why most polls now show the option to stay in the EU ahead of Brexit is not because there are more voters in favor of Brexit who have changed their minds, or the opposite.
On the contrary, most of the change of address is due to the 28% who did not vote in 2016 and who are now much more likely to vote in favor of remaining.
That suggests that the outcome of any second vote may depend on who votes and who does not, something that is very difficult to predict.
But do voters want another referendum?
On this, the message of the polls is even more uncertain.
After all, there are many possible types of second referendums.
It could be a direct repetition of the one held in June 2016.
Or a vote on the final agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU, where the alternative could be, on the one hand, to remain in the EU and, on the other, to leave without any kind of agreement.
Surveys conducted by Lord Ashcroft found that although repeating the original referendum was decidedly unpopular (51% opposed, 38% in favor), there was less opposition to a vote where the choice was between the agreement to leave without one (39 % was in favor, 31% opposed, although 30% was not sure).
At the same time, not only does the second referendum type matter. It also does how the idea is presented to the voters.
When, on numerous occasions, You Gov has asked if “there should or should not be a referendum to accept or reject” the terms of the agreement that is finally negotiated with the EU, on average 33% were in favor and 46% against .
In contrast, when Survation asked if people support “holding a second referendum to allow the public to vote on a Brexit agreement when the details are known,” 46% were in favor and only 42% opposed.