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Expert View

Labour voters and youth turn against Brexit in North East

by Peter Kellner | 23.08.2018

Peter Kellner is former president of YouGov.

On the night of the Brexit referendum two years ago, the early results from the North East were the first to show the strength of Leave support, especially in Labour’s northern heartlands. YouGov’s new survey, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, shows that a public vote today would produce a very different result. Instead of the crushing 16-point victory for the Leave campaign two years ago, the two sides are running neck-and-neck, with both on 50%.

The swing in the North East is higher than the national average; and there is a clear reason for this. The region is more strongly Labour than any other: the party has 26 of the North East’s 29 MPs. And while the views of the relatively small number of Conservative voters towards Brexit are virtually unchanged, Labour voters have moved from 59% to 68% Remain.

The shift is particularly pronounced among younger working class voters. Two years ago, by a narrow 52-48% margin, those under 40 voted Leave. Today, the same respondents back Remain by 61-39%: a four-point Leave advantage then has been transformed into a 22-point Remain lead today.

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By 54-22% Labour voters also back a public vote once the Brexit negotiations are complete.

The political significance of this is hard to overstate. Labour’s leadership, and many of its MPs, have been cautious about backing UK membership of the EU, or supporting a public vote, for fear of alienating pro-Brexit Labour voters. This survey shows that the reason for fear has significantly diminished – and the greater danger now for Labour could be alienating the big and growing  majority of pro-EU and pro-public vote majority among Labour supporters, even in the party’s heartlands.

The survey also finds that:

  • There is a big generation gap, with voters under 50 dividing two-to-one for staying in the European Union while voters over 50 divide two-to-one for Brexit.
  • As many as 84% think “the process of leaving the EU so far has been a mess”.
  • 72% of North-Easterners say “it’s likely that many of the promises made by politicians in favour of leaving the EU will be broken”.
  • Only 13% expect the UK to get a good deal in the Brexit talks with the EU. Even Conservatives in the region are doubtful, with just 27% expecting a good deal.
  • Almost two-thirds of North-Easterners, 64%, think a bad deal would be mainly the fault of the UK government.
  • By almost two-to-one, 41-22%, voters in the region expect Brexit to be bad for the economy.
  • By 47-31%, North-Easterners say it’s more important for the UK to trade freely with the EU than to have control over immigration from the EU. Labour supporters back free trade over immigration controls by four-to-one: 63-15%.

It all points to a big shift in Labour’s Leave-voting heartlands. This backs up previous polling showing over 100 constituencies switching away from Leave since 2016 – with a strong showing from Labour seats in the North. Jeremy Corbyn and his team would do well to factor in these shifting dynamics with the Brexit crunch point fast approaching.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

7 Responses to “Labour voters and youth turn against Brexit in North East”

  • interesting article! Nigel Duffy thinks it’s fake, peter kellner’s a pretty respected fella. It would be good to back that claim up Nigel. I reckon the average bod in the street knows more about brexit now than any of the politicians did in 2016. We should give the people another crack at it. We can change our minds every few years about who’s in government. How come this is different. Worth getting the country on side if most people still want to leave. Worth having the courage to say we’ve changed our mind if that’s what we think now. Democracy innit!

  • I rather doubt that Peter Kellner would put his name to a fake article (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Perhaps you’re suggesting he (or someone else?) has faked the data. Well, it was got in a YouGov survey. YouGov’s done plenty of work for various Tories (as well as others).
    Is it that you call something ‘fake’ if you’d prefer that it wasn’t true?

  • It is very well that many in the country are becoming aware of the impending disaster of Brexit. In spit of the best efforts of Dakre and Murdoch and many other truth twisters. But when will Corbyn see the light and stop being a brexit supporter? In the face of all the information about dirty tricks and dirty money that enabled the exit team to win a slim majority, he STILL maintains that brexit is the will of the people!!! Does he inhabit ga ga land or something? When will he start doing the job he was elected to do and be an effective leader of the opposition and curb the Tories excesses? How could he fall into the antisemitism trap and divert his energy away from saving the country? The Judaism issue must be addressed and will be. But not now! Wait until brexit is under control and the Tories are defeated then he can legislate to protect those of the Jewish faith. But first SAVE OUR COUNTY BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

  • Nigel Duffy is mistaken. I have been involved with a campaigning group in the NE which has been carrying out street surveys for well over a year. At first we had only a very small number of people who were regretting that they had voted Leave. Gradually the numbers have increased as light dawns about the level of deception practised upon the electorate by the Brexit organsations, and about the economic hardship which will blight this already none too affluent region.

  • The Donald Trump response – if it doesn’t say what I want, it’s fake. Except in this case it is merely reporting the results of a huge poll recently undertaken by YouGov. So not fake at all really.