Voters more divided by Brexit tribe than party loyalty, study finds

Posted On: 
22nd January 2019

British voters are much more likely to align themselves with a position on Brexit than with a political party, a major new study has found.

Pro-brexit and anti-brexit demonstrators mix outside the Houses of Parliament in January
Credit: 
PA Images

A report by the UK in a Changing Europe think tank found just 6% refused to align themselves with Remain or Leave in mid-2018, while 20% refused to identify with a party.

The study, which was conducted by some of Britain's most eminent political academics, shows the number of both Remainers and Leavers expressing a Brexit identity shot up following the 2016 referendum result.

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It found the number of Leave voters who say “we” when talking about their side jumped from 44% to 66% after the referendum, while for Remain voters it rocketed from 33% to 69%.

The equivalent figure for those who attach themselves to parties however is just 25%.

The number of people who agreed with the statement “When people criticize the Remain/Leave side, it feels like a personal insult” had gone up after the referendum from around 20% up to 42%.

That compares with only around 20% of Conservative and 28% of Labour identifiers who tended to respond that way.

Elsewhere, the study found more Tory voters (46%) backed Theresa May’s Brexit deal than party members (38%).

And more voters than ever (71%) described Labour’s position on leaving the EU as "unclear" and "confused" - a leap of 18 points from September 2017, three months after the snap general election.

It also found that MPs are more divided than the public on how a no-deal outcome could hit the country, with just 2% of Leave supporting MPs believing there could be a shortage of medical supplies, compared with 75% of Remain supporting MPs.

Meanwhile 14% of Leave voters believed such warnings could be realised, compared with 55% of Remain voters.

The study also found that the number of people who see immigration as one of the most important issues facing Britain has plummeted to its lowest since 2001 (20%), despite having stood at around 45% in the months leading up to the referendum.

Professor Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said the study "highlights the fundamental divisions Brexit has created, and in some cases exacerbated, in British society".

He added: “New Brexit identities have emerged, which seem to be stronger than party identities.

“Divisions are also clear on national lines, as well as between MPs and their respective party members.”