Britain’s changing expectations on the impact of Brexit

Britain’s changing expectations on the impact of Brexit
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Repeat polling is starting to portray a discernible loss of Leavers' faith in the original promise of Brexit

Since just before the 2016 EU Referendum, the YouGov-Cambridge Centre has periodically measured British expectations towards the impact of Brexit on various aspects of life, from jobs to immigration and security, as part of a joint project with the Cambridge University Forum on Geopolitics.

This includes near-identical surveys fielded to national samples of the British public in April 2016, May 2017 and February 2019. The latest results were produced to coincide with a one-day conference held by the Forum on the fateful (sort of) date of 29th March, examining the future stability of the European Union.

As findings show, the overall percentage of those who think Brexit would be ultimately bad for British jobs has shifted from 33% in 2016 to 44% in 2019. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this includes a marked increase in the number of Remain voters supporting such a view – from 69% in 2017 to 79% in 2019. But we also find a sizeable drop in the percentage of Leave voters who believe the opposite, namely that leaving would instead be good for jobs, from 57% in 2017 to 42% in 2019.


Impact of leaving the EU on British jobs %

  Total Remain Leave
2016  2017  2019  2017 2019  2017  2019 

Good for jobs

20 29 21 5 3 57

42

Bad for jobs

33 34 44 69 79 4

9

No difference 29 20 22 14 8 25

37

Don't know

19 17 14 12 10 14

12


By a similar token, the overall percentage of Britons who think leaving would make the country economically worse off has climbed from 35% in 2016 to 40% in 2017 to 45% in 2019. The same results include a 9% drop among Leave voters supporting the opposite view that it would make Britain better off, from 57% in 2017 to 48% in 2019.


Impact of leaving on the British economy %

  Total Remain Leave
2016  2017  2019  2017 2019  2017  2019 

Better off

22

28 23 4 4 57

48

Worse off

35 40 45 78 81 7

11

No difference 24 16 18 8 6 22

30

Don't know

19 17 14 10 9 14

11


On other issues, the percentage of those overall who think leaving would lead to less immigration has progressively decreased over the three surveys, from 57% in 2016 to 47% in 2017 and 43% in 2019. Among Leave voters, this includes a drop from 72% in 2017 to 63% in 2019.


Impact of leaving on immigration into Britain %

  Total Remain Leave
2016  2017  2019  2017 2019  2017  2019 

Lead to more

4 2 8 4 10 1

4

Lead to less

57 47 43 27 27 72

63

No difference 26 37 36 58 50 18

26

Don't know

13 14 13 12 13 9

7


We have also grown more cautious about the security aspect, it seems. The percentage of respondents overall saying Britain would be more at risk from terrorism after leaving the EU has risen from 14% in 2016 to 23% in 2019, while the portion of those thinking we will be at less such risk has dropped from 24% to 13% in the same period. Among Remain voters, this includes a striking increase in the amount of Remain voters saying the terrorism risk would increase – from 22% in 2017 to 41% in 2019 – and a fall from 64% to 41% among the same group who think Brexit would make no difference to the issue. Leave voters portray a smaller but still notable drop in the number who think the terrorism risk would be less after Brexit, from 27% in 2017 to 20% in 2019


Impact of leaving on the terror risk to Britain %

  Total Remain Leave
2016  2017  2019  2017 2019  2017  2019 

More risk

14 12 23 22 41 3

6

Less risk

24 15 13 3 5 27

20

No difference 47 60 50 64 41 61

65

Don't know

16 13 15 11 14 9

9


Beyond thinking merely about the consequences at home, views about the impact of Brexit on mainland Europe have also become more negative, it seems, with a progressive rise in the portion of those saying it will make the EU economically worse off – from 39% in 2016 to 43% in 2017 to 52% in 2019. This includes an increase among Remain voters who share this view from 40% in 2017 to 47% in 2019, and a notably larger increase among Leave voters saying the same, from 52% in 2017 to 67% in 2019.


Impact of leaving on the EU economy %

  Total Remain Leave
2016  2017  2019  2017 2019  2017  2019 

Better off

2 2 3 2 2 3

3

Worse off

39 43 52 40 47 52

67

No difference 33 31 25 40 31 25

17

Don't know

25 23 19 18 19 20

13


Whether any of these figures amount to a softening of the Leave vote is, of course, a very different question. As other YouGov polling shows, the vast majority of both Remain and Leave voters have continued to back their referendum choice since 2016, while broadly comparable attrition in both groups has done little to disrupt the balance between them.

What seems fair to suggest from these results, however, is that Leave voters are starting to portray a notable loss of faith in the original promise of Brexit on several fronts.


See results:

YGC Tracker Brexit Impact 2016

YGC Tracker Brexit Impact 2017

YGC Tracker Brexit Impact 2019

Methodology: fieldwork was conducted online between: 13–14 April, 2016; 1-2 May, 2017; and 26-27 Feb, 2019. Total sample sizes were: 1688 GB adults (2016); 1614 GB adults (2017); and 1730 GB adults (2019). For each survey, the data have been weighted and results are representative of all British adults aged 18+.

Image: Getty

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