UK Union flag in the City of London. Credit Peter Lane, Alamy
By Ben Riley-Smith and
British voters are showing few signs of “buyer’s remorse” at the decision to leave the EU made three months’ ago, one of the country’s leading polling experts has said.
During a briefing on public opinion and the referendum, Prof Curtice showed that twice as many people are currently opposed to a second EU referendum than back one.
Belief that Brexit will boost the NHS has plummeted by a third after the referendum, polling shows, despite the Eurosceptic campaign pledge to spend £350 million more on healthcare.
The country also remains divided on the what to prioritise during the Brexit negotiations, with voters split between wanting to keep free trade with the EU and ending freedom of movement.
The comments come after prominent pro-EU politicians claimed the public mood would shift once the consequences of Brexit became clear to voters.
On Tuesday, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron repeated his support for a second referendum at his party’s conference while Tony Blair, the former prime minister, urged voters to keep an “open mind”.
However in a briefing on public opinion at King’s College London, Prof Curtice said there was “not much evidence of buyer’s remorse” over the vote.
“The Remainers are still convinced they were right and the Leavers still think they were right. Very few minds have been changed,” he said.
Nor is there much appetite for another vote, with no more than a third of people backing a second EU referendum according to a string of polls.
While opinions are divided on what to aim for in the Brexit negotiations, there does seem to be large support for not paying into the EU Budget.
Just 13 per cent of voters said continuing to contribute financially to the EU would be an “acceptable price” for Brexit – far lower than other items on the negotiating table.
Professor Matthew Goodwin a fellow of the UK in a Changing Europe based at the University of Kent found that analysis of voting data from the EU referendum had thrown up “profound value differences” between Leavers and Remainers.
Figures showed that educational attainment was a much stronger determining factor in people’s decision to vote Leave than either earnings or age.
Compared with degree holders, support for Brexit was “about 30 points higher” among those with GCSE-only qualifications or below, but the Leave-Remain differential was only 10 points between those earning less than £20,000 and more than £60,000.
Among the age groups, the gap was 20 percentage points between those over-65 and those aged 25 when it came to voting Leave.
Prof Goodwin added that the vote had also defined the core liberal v conservative battle – or “identity politics” – currently dividing Britain and fomenting the rise of Ukip and other anti-establishment political groups.
As a symbol of the values-clash, those who self-identified themselves as being against gender equality and gay rights voted 80 per cent in favour of Leave while those in favour of stronger prison sentences and the death penalty also voted 73 per cent and 76 per cent in favour of Brexit.
Prof Goodwin argued that Labour under both Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn had failed to appreciate the fundamental point that “identity”, immigration and anti-elite sentiment had become more important to many voters than being left behind economically.
One other major factor that affected voter intention during the June 23 vote was geographical location, a fact illustrated by data showing that people living in low-skilled areas of the UK tended to lean more towards Leave relative to residents of high-skilled areas, like Oxford and Cambridge.
Those with GCSE-level education voted 70 per cent Leave if they lived in a low-skilled area, but that figure fell to 54 per cent among voters with the same level of attainment living in a high-skilled area.
Even starker differentials were observable among A-level and degree holders. Those with A-levels voted 64 per cent for Leave in unskilled areas, but only 29 per cent in high-skilled areas – a gap of 35 points. The gap (49-18) was 31 points among degree holders.
“This is a double whammy for those left behind,” Prof Goodwin said, saying the figures showed how “deeply polarised” the UK had become on education, while pointing to an urgent need for government to devise investment strategies that encouraged social mobility.
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