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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Farage Paradox part II: Support for EU membership at highest level since 1991

Back in May, we pointed out the so-called 'Farage Paradox' - even as the party came first in the European elections in the UK and Farage himself was widely seen as having bested Nick Clegg in their TV debates, support for leaving the EU had fallen to its lowest level for a long time according to Ipsos-MORI with 37% in favour of Brexit and 54% in support of staying in.

A few months later and UKIP is still riding high in the polls with a victory in the Clacton by-election under its belt and with the Tories on the run in Rochester and Strood - amid all kinds of noise around EU migration. However, on the wider EU question, support for membership has climbed even higher - today's Ipsos-MORI poll has support for membership at 56% - its highest since 1991!! - with support for leaving on 36%.

It's not entirely easy to nail down the drivers behind the trend - even the UK's public defeat over the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission President hasn't reversed it but one possibility could be that as the prospect of exit becomes more real, especially in the wake of the Scottish referendum, people are more likely to go with the 'better the devil you know' option. Another explanation is that Farage is good at stirring up support in concentrated parts of the country, but his divisive rhetoric turns others off. A feel-good factor over the economy (through as we've argued before, this can cut both ways) combined with increased uncertainty around the world - making the status quo look safer and club membership more attractive - could be other reasons.

Either way, it shows that even as UKIP find a way of tapping into disenchantment with the EU and mainstream UK politics, they are failing to convince  people that they have the right remedies and this risks derailing the broader 'out campaign, as the pro-Bexit Tory MP Michael Fabricant has warned:
"The out team will be very different, with no leader who commands popular support. Before you can even make the case for Britain becoming a mid-Atlantic economic hub, freed from the shackles of Brussels diktats, the Eurosceptics will be all over the place. No clear leader, and angry looking grey men who have been arguing the toss on Europe for years, will fail to impress. Yes, Nigel Farage is clearly the most charismatic Eurosceptic in years, but does anyone really imagine Farage being the Alex Salmond of the out campaign? Would he be persuasive enough to seduce a nation?"
However, it is worth bearing in mind that other polls have slightly different outcomes. Today's YouGov poll for the Times' red box showed lower levels of support for EU membership - support for membership is roughly the same under their 'major changes' scenario as under Ipsos-Mori's status quo scenario (YouGov's status quo option assumes renegotiation was attempted but failed to secure even modest changes, so can't be directly compared with the Ipsos-MORI one).

This shows that even if some polls suggest a majority of Brits would vote to stay in no matter what, EU reform and renegotiation remains by far the best option for any UK government. 

As has been noted before, that's why some Better Off Outers are now starting to fear that long sought after In/Out referendum - in itself an ironic development. 


Peter van Leeuwen said...

During the May 2015 elections the UK will have its own 'spitzenkandidaten' Cameron and Miliband, who can not be voted for directly (by 99,85% of the electorate), but hope to be heading the largest party thereafter. Maybe by then some more British will realise that with regard to Juncker, in the end only Hungary and the UK (represented by their prime-ministers) were anti a democratic development in the EU, e.g. the parliament grabbing the power to have spitzenkandidaten in the elections and claiming the EC presidency. As such, in retrospect the UK may be viewed as having been anti a democratic development and thus anti-democratic in this case. Now this more democratic and more political European Commission will have to prove it can address some of the legitimate British concerns, after which the UKIP support may dwindle.

jon livesey said...

I'm not that sure that a poll taken today really means very much. The only poll that matters is one that is taken after Cameron has negotiated with the EU and announced what concessions he has been able to secure; the referendum itself.

It also matters a lot whether we have another hung Parliament in 2015, and if we do, with whom the leading party forms a coalition.

If the UKIP were to secure a large enough cohort of MPs to make their support necessary to form a coalition, then we might find ourselves with a Government that campaigns in favour of a referendum vote to leave the EU instead of to stay in.

Anonymous said...

A representative sample of 1002
people, wow! from the whole of the UK? Das ich nicht lache!
Really, they ought to try a bit harder, but then they may not get the result they wanted.

Rik said...

1. First of all these polls in general look utter rubbish. There are 5to10 sigma differences more often than not.
Caused in all likelyhood by using panels. It is an all over the board problem for polls that work with panels.
In that respect hard to use for any practical purpose (except in determining trends but have to compare polls by the same organisation.

2. Polls are focussed on 2 alternatives while effectively there are 3 (basic strategy) or 5-6 (2017 referendum situation).

3. Questions are often rubbish even technically.

4. People do clearly not oversee the whole issue. A lot of explaining/communication has to be done. Probably more than half of the electorate miss large pieces of the total picture. Some looks to have picked things up other still clearly donot have a clue.

5. Communication will determine this as much as negotiation results. With the Brexit case much easier and positively to communicate. However with a lot of uncertains.

6. With my money on Farage. As it is a simpler job and he has proven to be a lot better than the opposite side in it.
Cameron&Co were very poor on Scotland and he is doing a similar job on the EU.
While the EU people basically are counterproductive. If you have them all shot you likely increase the likelyhood of IN outcome. Looks like a bucket of Browns.

christopher williams said...

The worst part of this is the delay in having a referendum. While there is a risk of the vote being for a pull-out, it should still be taken now, before the election - and before Cameron goes any further with demands that will not be met by threats.
There is far better scope for changing EU rules from within, not least as other countries are likely to agree with some changes.
The UK could be shown to be better outside of the euro (not hard to do) and be a beacon of fundamental change within the EU, but not by niggling and threatening while waiting to decide if it is in or out.

Anonymous said...

How many of the general population understand exactly what the EU is?

The drumbeat of doom will befall us if we leave sounds incessantly in the background to any debate.

It is like the great Global Warming Doom, the population exposed only to the doomsayers were frightened into believing it, as more information has got out (thanks to the Internet) as none of the prophesies have come to pass, a better informed public rejects the nonsense.

So it is likely to be when the In/Out debate properly takes place, but those who want out must not just recite their own litany of dooms if the UK stays in, but show a positive alternative.

However the debate should not be about UK In/Out it should be about whether the EU is a desirable construct and should be supported and allowed to remain.

In 1940 the question was, Third Reich UK In or Out, which a number in the British Establishment wanted to answer 'In', but Churchill turned the debate to whether the Third Reich should be opposed and destroyed for the evil thing it was.

The same is true for the current Fourth Reich.

As for the European Parliament having more power, anyone who believes that has no concept of democracy.

For there to be a European Parliament it must represent a European Body Politic which does not exist and my money is on never will.

Apart that, the first pre-requisite would be a common first European language and pan-European political parties so, like the USA, the politics could be debated and understood across the Continent, absent national favourites and revelries over who gets elected to what.

All that will happen when flocks of pigs appear overhead.

But the major question to be asked about the continued existence of the EU/Fourth Reich is, 'What does it fix that was broke?'

And the answer is it fixes nothing but break everything.

franam said...

The last time I was asked to vote was many years ago - and that was for an EEC (European Economic Community) - or the Common Market, which was solely a trading partnership. Since then it has morphed into a political set-up, passing laws, many of which over-ride our national laws and are also detrimental to our national well-being. Unelected eurocrats, unaudited accounts and a gravy-train situation have left many in the UK cynical and refusing to play ball. High time the British people were asked what they want to happen. It seems like in-or-out is the only alternative we are been left with: renegotiation isn't on the cards, according to news from the EU this week. The worm is beginning to turn.

Denis Cooper said...

Does it not say something about the modern Tory party that in its increasingly desperate efforts to stem the UKIP tide some of its prominent supporters are willing to propagate a false "paradox" invented by a former Secretary-General Secretary of the Fabian Society?

The reality is that about half of the electorate have been more or less duped into hoping that if we stay in the EU for now then it will somehow be possible for our clever politicians to get major changes to our benefit, with the process of EU integration either halted or even reversed.

We know this is the case from other opinion polls, including this one conducted on behalf of Open Europe in February:


with 15% wanting the level of EU integration to stay more or less as it is, and an even more deluded 37% wanting it to be less integrated.

But we all know that there is no hope of that at all, don't we?

We all know that it is just a delusion.

jon livesey said...

Peter van Leeuwen: with all due respect, you are wasting your time. Your chances of convincing the ordinary British voter that the UK is undemocratic and the EU is democratic are zero.

No British voter is going to change his or her mind about the EU because of some guy going on about the House of Lords and "spitzenkandidaten".

Trotting out the same tortured argument day after day is Quixotic, but futile.

Average Englishman said...

Such polls are meaningless given their very limited scope and the nature of their questions.

Also, no matter what games of deceit Dave and the leaders of the other main parties may play in the short term, the problems caused in the UK by the EUSSR will not go way because the EUSSR will not change its 'ever closer union' and 'full freedom of movement' policies. So, the UK people must learn not only to obey but love Big Brother (sorry, a slip of the keyboard when of course I meant the EUSSR) and all of its ways or the UK people will have to leave this wonderful organization. My money is on the latter, whether as a result of a referendum in the short term or the encouragement by the rise of UKIP of an anti-EU Conservative Party leader in due course.

GEOFF said...



christhai said...

Notably, AGAIN, it is the Ipsos Mori Poll which produces these figures.

Notably when people answer to an EU with NO reforms - the Stay In vote reverses dramatically.

Thus if UK people were asked, "If there were NO signficant reforms on Immigration/Freedom of Movement would you vote to stay or leave the EU?

I think we know the answer to that as well as the EU's intransigence on the subject.

Human Trafficking for cheap labour, is a fundamental right to large manufacturing companies so the Freedom of Movement will never even be touched.

Anonymous said...

These polls are a load of rubbish and like a lot of political broadcasts are used as a smokescreen. How many polls were predicting a yes vote in Scotland or at the very best had it too close to call.
Now voters throughout Europe are realising that the whole basis of the E.U. is undemocratic.
The voters have never had the opportunity to vote for the Commissioners of the E.U.
The Commissioners cannot be removed from office.
Whatever way you look at it this is a form of dictatorship on a grand scale.
Beware of the smiling faces who want more of the E.U. They are only interested in their own political future.