Poll finds strong support for referendum on membership of EU

LONDON – January 27th 2013 – There is strong public support for holding a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, according to new research by Kantar Public, which also found that more people would vote to leave the EU than stay in if a referendum was held tomorrow.

However two in five believe that most of their fellow citizens don’t know enough about the EU to make a decision – half of Labour voters and nearly two thirds of Liberal Democrats agree with this view. Only one in five think that people in the UK understand how the European Union works.

The research, carried out in the days before and after David Cameron’s speech pledging an in-out EU referendum after a renegotiation of the UK’s membership, found that more than half (54%) of British adults believe that a referendum is the best way to decide on EU membership – Conservative voters are more likely than average to agree (64%) and Liberal Democrats less likely (38%).

There is 41% support for leaving the EU, with only 30% in favour of staying in, though 22% are undecided. Older people and those who are not working are significantly more likely to vote for leaving.

For those who want to stay in the EU, the main factor is their belief that it is good for trade – 70% agree. For those wishing to leave, the most important reasons were giving the country stronger control of its borders (54%) and reducing foreign interference in the British justice system (45%). A third thought that quitting would “save the UK a lot of money”.

The research also showed a sense of grievance about the way the UK is treated by its EU partners. There is a belief that:
• The EU interferes too much in domestic British politics (55% agree vs 9% disagree).
• The UK has less influence in the EU than other member countries of a similar size, such as France and Germany (49% vs 11%).
• The UK is often unfairly treated during EU negotiations (48% vs 9%).

There are relatively modest majorities for the arguments that EU membership is good for the UK economy (32% vs 25%) and that the EU helps to ensure peace in Europe (32% vs 20%).

A small majority thinks that benefits of EU membership outweigh or roughly balance out the costs. Labour and Liberal Democrat voters are significantly more positive about the benefits of membership, while opinion among Conservative voters is evenly divided.

Nick Howat, Head of Social and Political Attitudes at Kantar Public, said: “This research shows that the arguments for and against remaining in the EU are finely poised with a slight majority currently saying they would vote to leave but with the number of undecided meaning that it is more than possible to envisage a vote to stay succeeding.
“The research also shows that if David Cameron wants to succeed in the referendum he should focus his renegotiation on border controls and reducing interference in criminal justice as these are the main areas of concern for those who are currently opposed to EU membership.”

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