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Expert View

Pro-Europeans beat Brexiters 55% to 43% in EU vote

by Peter Kellner | 28.05.2019

Peter Kellner is former president of YouGov.

Since last week’s elections to the European Parliament people have tried to work out the balance of pro-EU and pro-Brexit votes implied by the results. It’s now fairly well-known that the strongly pro-European parties won 40%, while the Brexit Party plus Ukip together won 35%.

What, though, should we do about the rump of Conservative and Labour voters? The easiest assumption is to count most Labour voters as pro-European, and most Tories as pro-Brexit.

However, data buried in Survation’s eve-of-election poll for the Daily Mail casts doubt on one of these two assumptions. To be sure, it confirms that the 14% who voted Labour divided 3-1 for staying in the EU. The more intriguing finding is that the 9% of voters who stayed loyal to the Tories divided exactly evenly.

Here are the figures.

The table shows what happened last week. People who would vote Conservative in a general election divide two-to-one in favour of Brexit. That’s a clear majority – though we should note that opinion among Tories is more balanced than that among Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Huge numbers of normally Tory pro-Brexit voters switched to the Brexit party; but far fewer Tory who voted Remain were attracted to the Liberal Democrats or the Greens. Hence the numerically small, but proportionally large, number of Tory pro-Europeans who did not defect.

It’s worth noting that the Remain/Leave balance is much the same for the 33% of voters who would back Labour in a general election as the 14% who voted Labour last week. Other polling data suggests that those Labour leavers who defected did so some weeks ago; the sharp drop in Labour support during the final fortnight of the recent campaign was almost wholly the consequence of Labour pro-Europeans switching to the Lib Dems and Greens. In any event, many more Labour pro-Europeans than Brexiters defected overall.

On these figures, then – as percentages of all voters last week – Labour’s 14% split 10.5% Remain, 3.5% Leave. Meanwhile the Tories’ 9% divided 4.5% for each side. Taken together, the 23% of Tory plus Labour voters divided 15% Remain, 8% Leave. Add these to the votes of the strongly pro-and anti-Brexit parties, and we end up with 55% Remain, 43% Leave.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

16 Responses to “Pro-Europeans beat Brexiters 55% to 43% in EU vote”

  • The statistical base does not include Northern Ireland. Given that the DUP presents itself as the representative voice of Northern Ireland and is the arch advocate of No Deal Exit; it is significant that, in the EU elections, the DUP did not get a majority of first choice votes, ( the leading DUP candidate being the spouse of the Westminster DUP leader Nigel Dodds and allegedly wielding considerable influence over the Brexit negotiations behind the scenes), they lost a seat to the a strong Remain party Alliance and the DUP share of the vote declined significantly. In all conscience, how can they advocate an ultra Leave option if they do not have representative legitimacy ? in other words, are they a bunch of charlatans disseminating toxic fake news ?

  • On the face of it these statistics are encouraging. Presumably they don’t include Scotland? There will be a counter argument to show the stats mean something else.
    Good points about NI from Joseph Mullen. NI is often ignored in all of this.

  • Further on N.I. Did you know that Arlene Foster, dismayed at seeing that her country will have an alliance MEP, says “We found that when we spoke to people they said ‘we have already voted, we told what you want, we want out of Europe’.” Is it that those who “want out of Europe” have always thought it best to conceal the fact that they’re in a minority? Or what?
    Westminster DUP MPs have no concern whatever with what democracy [as opposed to ulra-nationalism] for N.I. might amount to. To them it’s merely mildly annoying that that now 2 out of their 3 MEPs would have no problem with the Irish backstop. As they (Westminister DUPs) might say: “we have already voted many times in Parliament, we told the PM what we want, we want out of Europe and we’ve already said that the backstop is toxic.” Only: the people who vote in NI who support us aren’t prepared to vote just one more time.

  • If Peter Kellner is dividing up the Labour and Tory votes in the European Parliament elections according to their views on Brexit, he needs to do the same for the other parties, as his figures show substantial minorities of Lib Dem and Green voters in favour of Leave but hardly any Brexit Party voters in favour of Remain. The overall figures are then more realistic but much less encouraging.

  • What actually is the interest in the EU to endear themselves to pro-Brexit voters in England? Just interested in that point of view.

  • You’ve missed the 15% liberal, 20% green that for leave in your chart (5% of the vote, a 10% swing). It’s 52 remain, 48 leave (ignoring the 2% remain BP stat as ridiculous, that’s 10,000 idiots too many to be believed). Then you need to deduct 6pts to account for EU national from the remain score (if we are making this a referendum). It’s a +2% win for leave or a dead heat if 10,000 remainers did vote for the Brexit party.

  • Well, the massive elephant in the room is the Leave voters that didn’t vote in this election. I mean, you are all ignoring that, but it’s easily 5%-8% swing to Leave. Remember: for Remainers this election is a “fight for their lives!” to stay in the EU, so they are massively motivated, but Leave voters see it as “meh, why bother to vote in this as we are leaving in 5 months”. The stats are fine, but you are all ignoring the massive elephant in the room as it does not fit the narrative that you want to believe.

  • Why oh Why!!! Would anyone with an iota of common sence want to split from the EU. I am British but live outside of union or England. It is still very important to me and my family that we do not leave.. much stronger if part of the Union than alone?

  • The idea of opinion polls is to predict actual results not the other way round. The Tories had no manifesto and a single policy to brexit. If you vote for a party you vote for its policy. Peter Kelner is simply negating all thiose votes in order to manipulate the overall result.

  • If ever there was an illustration of ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ this is it. You can’t just apply the analysis to the Conservative and Labour vote, whilst ignoring the fact that there are also proportions of LibDem and Green voters who say they would vote Leave in a 2nd Ref. If you do the maths in the same way across all the parties shown you actually get to a very slim Leave majority. Quite frankly this is an appalling piece of either stupidity or intellectual dishonesty and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • I’ve done some similar work with the YouGov polling, which was closer in time to the actual vote and had a larger sample. I agree that as a proxy referendum Remain was the clear winner, but I think your results are overly optimistic. By the time of the election many of the Labour voters had decided to vote more pro-Remain, so it was no longer a 3:1 split. The same could be said for Conservatives in the opposite direction, but with less impact. Also, I suspect from your figures that you haven’t taken account of the minorities of SNP, PC, Liberal and Green voters still likely to vote Leave in a second referendum? Also, the impact of EU nationals (which I assumed balanced against various pro-Leave biases – e.g. assumption in detailed polling of 50/50 vote)? The results I got for Remain were in the range 52.5-55%.

  • Your analysis is (deliberately?) flawed and therefore your headline is a LIE.
    Peter Kellner’s article ignores some of the figures it relies on to reach this conclusion, which he calls “data buried in Survation’s eve-of-election poll”. As several people have commented, he’s omitted Leave voters among Greens and Liberal Democrats and allocated them all to reach a 55-43% pro-European outcome. The data shows 20% of Green voters and 15% of Liberal Democrats were Leave supporters – so these need to be included, not just the Labour and Conservative breakdown? To get a true outcome, we therefore have to take 3% off the Lib Dem votes and about 2.5% of Greens. Remainers are now down to 49.5% and Leavers up to 48.5%. If Scotland is also included, Sir John Curtice made a similar observation that the SNP held on to its Leave supporters, estimated in an earlier survey at about one-third. SNP attracted 3.5% of the overall vote, so if we add 1% to Leave and take 1% off Remain, its now Remainers 48.5% and Leavers 49.5%. Either way it is a lot closer than your dramatic headline suggests, now being shared on social media. If you claim to be “infacts.org”, you have a duty to put this right otherwise you’re just another propaganda site.

  • Peter Kellner knows better than this very dubious extrapolation. What is much more remarkable is that turnout for the EU Parliament election was only 37% in the UK, one of the lowest among any of the 28. That compares with 72% turnout for the 2016 referendum. This is surely surprising given the amount of virulent coverage from both sides in the press and on social media. Are we in danger of simply getting fed up with the whole thing? It does not augur well for the prospect of a ‘People’s Vote’ which is now probably dead in the water.

  • What a complete load of rubbish, this could have been calculated many different ways depending upon what results you wanted. People were voting for what party they wanted in the EU, not if they wanted to be in or out. I voted ‘in’ but voted for the Brexit Party in this election. Just stop moaning, get on and deliver what the country voted for!