A Panel Survey Study of the 2016 EU Referendum British Election Study Linked Project with UK in a Changing Europe Initiative

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

Britain will hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union on June 23rd 2016. The poll will be a once in a generation event providing a unique opportunity to guage and understand public opinion as it pertains to the EU, to understand the factors that shape opinion towards the EU, and to grasp the ways, if any, in which the referendum might reflect, or contribute to, any ongoing realignment of British politics. The funds requested will provide added value out of two existing large scale ESRC investments - the British Election Survey and the UK in a changing Europe initiative. This new project will provide highly useful new data, original analysis, and reinforce the knowledge transfer, dissemination and public engagement activities the two major investments already undertake. Using a large scale national opinion surveys in the run-up to the referendum and following it, and building on previous British Election Surveys, the project will examine the following areas:
(i) whether people believe the UK currently gets a fair deal from the EU, the extent to which voters perceive immigration control as dependent on leaving the EU, whether renegotiation is successful, and economic expectations conditional on leaving or staying in the EU. Given the likely salience of the immigration crisis, respondents will also be asked about their knowledge about where immigrants to the UK come from - original member states, accession states, non-EU economic migrants/political asylum seekers, and students.
(ii) voters' understanding of the political context of the referendum, including knowledge about the EU position each of the parties holds as well as perceptions of elite division over EU, and the binding nature of the outcome.
(iii) in order to embed responses to these questions in social and political context there will be batteries of partisanship questions, general political knowledge questions, and questions related to expressed interest in the referendum campaign. The potentially important role of debates played out in the full glare of the media spotlight would be examined through media consumption questions across the period leading up to the vote. Mobilization by competing sides in the referendum is another potentially significant area to be examined.
(iv) The uncertainty of what would happen in the event of a vote to leave the EU is likely to be an important factor, as are the risks associated with leaving - as demonstrated by the BES study with respect to the Scottish Referendum. To address this we will include measures of risk aversion- this is likely to be an important influence on individual differences in voting - and uncertainty is likely to be a significant contextual factor.
(v) With regard to the consequences of the Referendum, there is inevitably the question of whether the outcome will obtain the loser's consent. The perceived legitimacy of the referendum is likely to have pronounced political consequences. The post-referendum surveys in 2016 and 2017 would therefore include questions that enquire about these issues. This will facilitate further consequences of the referendum outcome to be examined, including whether the referendum will placate or exacerbate anti-EU politics in the case of a vote to remain in the EU; the extent to which anti-EU sentiment becomes synonymous with UKIP support, or otherwise; and the possibility of a strengthening political realignment around the EU issue after the referendum. This potential reshaping of the British electoral landscape has been in train since Labour's policy reversal on the EU in the late 1980s, and the implications it carries for the internal coherence of the major parties, particularly the Conservatives for whom the EU has been a long-standing and at times highly destructive dilemma, are potentially fundamental for Britain's party system.

Planned Impact

The applicants are also committed to disseminating the findings of their work through continued work with key media outlets (which they are already undertaking as part of their BES and UK in a Changing Europe activities).
In addition, we will hold a large scale conference after the planned referendum to which key stakeholders will be invited, and which will provide an opportunity to discuss the initial findings of the survey. It is anticipated that the event will generate significant media interest. A further conference will disseminate the fully developed findings of the project.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The EU referendum provided a unique opportunity to understand public opinion about the EU and the ways in which the referendum might affect British politics. The grant provided a pre-campaign benchmark for the EU referendum, daily rolling campaign surveys, and a short post-referendum survey. These have enabled us to produce, amongst others, the following findings:
Opinions on the impact of Brexit were to a large degree determined by earlier attitudes. The main change in the run up to the referendum was the crystallization of voters' positions as indicated by the decline of the number of 'Don't Know' responses. Remarkably, some 80 per cent of Referendum votes could be predicted from responses to a single question about the EU posed in 2010. Views on the consequences of Brexit were likewise heavily pre-structured: people who thought Brexit would have a positive or negative impact in one area, ranging from unemployment to international trade to immigration and terrorism, also thought that it would in all other areas.
Underlying these long-term attitudes to the EU were social values. Specifically, the difference between those with socially conservative beliefs and those with more socially liberal views on questions of order, authority, morality and freedom. The referendum allowed these values to be expressed through the ballot box. No fewer than 80 per cent of the most socially conservative voters opted to leave, compared to fewer than 10 per cent of the socially liberal. Around three-quarters of those who support capital punishment voted to Leave, compared to only about 20 per cent of those who opposed it.
We also identified underlying social and psychological differences in the UK electorate that influenced voting. Among these was the lack of control people feel they have over their lives, the sense that things in Britain were better in the past, the degree to which people lacked 'social capital', and their lack of trust in others. A sense of national decline was a key feature of the divide between Leave and Remain voters. Fewer than 15% of those who strongly disagreed that things in Britain were better in the past voted to leave the EU while nearly 80% of those who strongly agreed did so. In general, Brexit voters displayed a deeper sense of alienation and were more likely to be threatened by changes to society brought about by immigration.
Accordingly, immigration and sovereignty were the most frequently cited issues among those who voted leave. Among people with a negative view of immigration, no fewer than 80 per cent voted to leave the EU. In contrast, remainers were primarily concerned about the potentially negative economic consequences of Brexit. The degree to which the preoccupations of the two sides differed was dramatically illustrated by the 'word clouds' first shown on ITV on the night of the Referendum itself. These word clouds were formed by the amount of times people mentioned different sorts of issues when they were asked to say in their own words what was motivating their vote.
Finally, a key feature of the EU referendum was the emergence of remain versus leave identities, with implications for political preferences. We show that the 2017 General Election was to a substantial degree 'a Brexit election', with switching between the parties driven primarily by how people had voted in the referendum, especially before the election campaign began. The Conservatives became the choice of leave voters, while remainers coalesced mainly around Labour. Because EU referendum switching was highly structured by social values and the underlying demographic factors associated with them (age and education) voting for the two major parties became much more closely related to these characteristics in 2017 than previously.
Exploitation Route These data have been widely used by academics, media and political researchers to understand developments in British Politics. Evidence from the surveys also provided a key part of ITV's referendum night coverage. We have received enthusiastic feedback from the research community about the quality and timeliness of the data. We anticipate a large range of scholarly research outputs as well as practical applications.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-resources/brexit-britain-british-election-study-insights-from-the-post-eu-referendum-wave-of-the-bes-internet-panel/#.W-3P7ej7QdV
 
Description The findings of the EU Referendum surveys were regularly reported in TV, radio, social and print media around the time of the EU Referendum. Most prominently being ITV's referendum night coverage which featured exclusive insights from data released and reported on the night.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Title EU Referendum panel surveys 
Description The grant has been used primarily to undertake waves 8 and 9 of the British Election Internet Panel Study, as well as including EU Referendum specific questions in wave 7 of the BESIP. The three waves cover the pre/campaign and post-EU Referendum Period. The study covers electors who are eligible to vote to vote in any type of UK election (including local and European). The file contains all respondents who took any wave of the study. Around 30,000 respondents were interviewed in each wave. All three waves have been released for use by others. The most recent wave to be released (wave 9) was conducted by YouGov between 4th June 2016 and 4th July 2016. In total 30,036 respondents took wave 9, 27,555 of these also took wave 8, an overall wave on wave retention rate of 82.2%. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact These data are being widely used by academics, media and political researchers to understand developments in British Politics. We have received enthusiastic feedback from the research community about the quality and timeliness of the data. We anticipate a large range of scholarly research outputs as well as practical applications. 
 
Description Brexit and public opinion 2019, Central London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Full day conference to launch the report of the same name which explored how public opinion has influenced British politics since the referendum and what political divisions and identities have been created and exposed.

Feedback: The event was attended by 160 stakeholders, with videos of the panel collectively receiving over 5000 views. The report was featured on Sky, TalkRadio, Guardian, Express,
Mirror and PoliticsHome.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://ukandeu.ac.uk/event/brexit-and-public-opinion-2/
 
Description American Political Science Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Winning Back the Populists: Brexit, party strategy and the transformation of British electoral divisions APSA San Francisco September 2017 given by Geoff Evans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Annual Conference of the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Geoff Evans and Jon Mellon UKIP: Immigration, Europe and the rise of ethno-nationalism at the EPOP Conference September 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/epop/friday-9th-september-2016/
 
Description Annual Conference of the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Geoff Evans and Chris Prosser Was it always a done deal? Estimating the impact of expectations and leaders on the decision to leave or stay EPOP 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/epop/friday-9th-september-2016/
 
Description Book launch: Brexit and British Politics by Geoff Evans and Anand Menon, London 14.11.18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Geoff Evans and Anand Menon's new book 'Brexit and British Politics' will be launched on Tuesday 14 November at 6.40pm at the London Review of Books.

A wide ranging discussion of the factors that led to the referendum outcome and the ongoing implications of that for British Politics will take place.

Speakers are:

Adam Boulton, Sky news presenter
Heather Stewart, Guardian's political editor
Peter Foster, Telegraph's Europe editor
Professor Anand Menon, director The UK in a Changing Europe and Kings College London
Professor Geoff Evans, University of Oxford
Professor Tim Bale (chair) Queen Mary, University of London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://ukandeu.ac.uk/event/book-launch-brexit-and-british-politics-2/
 
Description Book launch: Brexit and British politics, Oxford 29.11.17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Join us for our upcoming book launch on Brexit and British politics by Professor Anand Menon and Geoff Evans.

Geoffrey Evans, Professor of the Sociology of Politics at Nuffield College, Oxford. (Also co-director of the ESRC-funded British Election Study and director of the EU Referendum Study. Also editor of the journal Electoral Studies)
Ian Dunt - editor of politics.co.uk
Chris Morris, British broadcast journalist who regularly contributes to BBC News
Anand Menon, Director of The UK in a Changing Europe
Kalypso Nicolaidis, St Antony's college, (chair)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://ukandeu.ac.uk/event/book-launch-brexit-and-british-politics/
 
Description Brexit Regret 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Brexit Regret - article for the Economist Newspaper
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Brexit and Public Opinion A UK in a Changing Europe/British Election Study Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Panel debate on Brexit and 2017 General Election as part of day conference. Panel include Prof Ed Fieldhouse, Professor Geoff Evans )bothj BES team), Liz Kendal MP and was chaired by Emily Matliss (BBC)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Brexit and Public Opinion conference, London 31.01.18 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a one-day conference hosted by The UK in a Changing Europe with keynote speaker Sir John Curtice and Chris Wilkins, former No.10 Strategy Director. Panellists included academics, MPs and journalists such as Emily Maitlis (Newsnight), Jo Coburn (Daily Politics) and Adam Boulton (Sky News), Politicians such as Liz Kendall and John Mills as well as leading experts from our Brexit research team. Audience consisted of civil servants from DExEU, academics, members of the public and representatives from CBI. The event was widely publicised in both national and international media outlets; Daily Express, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, New Delhi Times, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Independent, Voice of America. We handed out more than 200 copies of the report which coincided with the event and widely publicised it over social media. The event was watched by more than 1000 people both on our Facebook and Twitter together. The videos of all keynotes and panels have been added to our website and youtube channel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://ukandeu.ac.uk/event/brexit-and-public-opinion/
 
Description Conservative Party Conference 2017 in Manchester 01.10.17 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Professor Menon participated in the Conservative Party Conference which took place in Manchester. Discussions throughout the Sunday session included: What sort of Brexit does the Conservative Party want? This particular discussion was held by Professor Menon and Jacob Rees-Mogg (MP).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Mannheim University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Immigration, Brexit, and the Restructuring of British Party Competition given by Geoff Evans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.mzes.uni-mannheim.de/d7/en/events/immigration-brexit-and-the-restructuring-of-british-pa...
 
Description Referendum effect could spell trouble for Tories, researchers argue 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact web story for the University of Manchester News page
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/referendum-effect-could-spell-trouble-for-tories-researche...
 
Description University of Mannheim Public Lecture: Immigration, Brexit, and the Restructuring of British Party Competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Time: 26.10.2017 - 15:00 to 16:30
Location: A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event: MZES Public Lecture
Lecturer: Prof. Dr Geoffrey Evans
Lecturer affiliation: University of Oxford, Nuffield College
Studies of political cleavage evolution have often assumed they change glacially. Studies of party competition and issue dimensionality typically treat parties as strategic actors that try to open up or suppress new dimensions of competition to further their electoral interests. This paper takes a different perspective and presents a case study of how political decisions can unintentionally create a new dimension of party competition and in consequence, the remarkably swift restructuring of party competition, both ideologically and in terms of the social bases of voting. It does so via an examination of the consequences of the UK government's 2004 policy decision on immigration from EU accession countries. The analysis uses data on official immigration rates, and Mori, YouGov and multiple British Election Study cross-section and panel surveys to demonstrate the growing link between EU immigration and Euroscepticism, and the rise of UKIP, leading ultimately to the 2016 EU Referendum, the demise of UKIP, and the restructuring of party competition, both ideologically and socially, in the 2017 General Election.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.mzes.uni-mannheim.de/d7/en/events/immigration-brexit-and-the-restructuring-of-british-pa...
 
Description What should Labour demand from Brexit? Brighton 25.09.17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Details: Panellist included the shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and Chair of the Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper along with Anand Menon and George Eaton, political editor from the New Statesman with whom we collaborated with for this event. Feedback: The event was a huge success, with around 90 people in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017