A fresh wave of hundreds of thousands of young people coming on to voting rolls at the age of 18 is transforming the dynamics of the Brexit debate, according to new polling released today (Monday).
It means the cross-over point, when the Leave majority from the 2016 referendum will disappear purely through demographic change, has now moved forward to January 19, 2019 – just two months before the UK’s current departure date from the European Union.
The YouGov poll of 1,645 18 to 24-year-olds, including many who were too young to take part in 2016, shows two thirds (65 per cent) saying they are “absolutely certain to vote” if they were given the chance now to make their voice heard on membership of the EU.
Commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, the survey shows these new members of the electorate, largely aged 18-19, divide by a margin of seven to one - 87 to 13 per cent - for staying in the EU.
Matilda Allan, who turns 18 in December, has set up an organisation called New Generation for a People’s Vote to make sure younger voices that were ignored in the referendum two years ago are heard this time.
She said: “A new generation of voters is changing the Brexit debate. Between the 2016 referendum and the date we’re set to leave the EU, 1.5 million voters will have turned 18 and we're determined to make our voices heard. We keep being told Brexit is the ‘will of the people’ but the 'people' have changed. MPs must listen to those now able to vote and give us a People's Vote on any Brexit deal.”
Peter Kellner, the former president of YouGov who had previously calculated the cross-over point as falling in November next year, says the new polling suggests the Leave majority is now shrinking by 1,350 every day as older voters who overwhelmingly backed Brexit are replaced by younger ones.
He said: “YouGov’s latest figures tell us how those who were not yet 18 last time would vote now. Those who say they are certain to vote divide seven-to-one for Remain. This matters statistically: for it helps to explain why demographic factors alone will cause the UK this winter to switch from a Leave country to a Remain country.
“Because this cross-over point occurs before March 29, 2019 – when the UK is due to leave the EU – it means the British public’s view of Brexit will have changed even without anyone who voted two years changing their mind. Young people who were not eligible to vote in 2016 and can do so now make it much harder for anyone to claim that Brexit is still the ‘will of the people’.
“Older voters are just as keen on leaving the EU as they were two years ago, younger voters are moving even more strongly into the Remain camp – and the very youngest voters back continued membership of the EU by a remarkable margin. It is very rare for a significant demographic group to support one side so overwhelmingly on an issue that splits the nation down the middle.
“What is more, young voters are the ones who will still be dealing with the long-term consequences of the current Brexit drama in ten or 20 years’ time, long after many Leave voters have gone. Today’s young voters are making clear that they want a pro-European inheritance – and are ready to stand up and be counted, in a fresh public vote.”
The poll shows that 18-24-year old voters support demands for a People’s Vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations by a margin of well over two-to-one - 52 to 22 per cent or 70 to 30 per cent once “don’t knows” are removed.
Two years ago, the 18-24-year-old group as a whole voted for Remain by a margin of 71 to 29 per cent. Now, that margin has increased to 78 to 22 per cent, largely because of the surge of new voters on to the electoral register.
Today’s YouGov survey also reveals that young voters are overwhelmingly likely to cite Brexit as the most important issue facing Britain and this group would be significantly more inclined to back Labour at the next general election if the party threw its weight behind demands for a public vote. A total of 42 per cent say it would make them more likely to vote Labour - against just 7 per cent who it would make them less likely.
The poll confirms the deep pessimism felt by the new generation of voters about their prospects if Brexit goes ahead.
- By a ratio of four to one – 54 to 13 per cent – they think children growing up today will be worse off than their parents
- Almost half – 49 per cent – predict hate crimes against minorities will increase, while just 9 per cent think they will decrease.
- A total of 53 per cent think the NHS will get worse, while just 13 per cent say it will get better.
- Asked which groups will benefit from Brexit, they name bankers and corporate executives while saying the young and NHS patients are likely to find life harder.
- By a margin of more than three-to-one – 61 to 18 per cent – they say free trade is more important than controlling immigration.
The People’s Vote campaign will be releasing a video every day for the next month that features a young person explaining they are joining its March for the Future in London on October 20. The protest, which is expected to exceed the 100,000-plus who marched on parliament demanding a People’s Vote on June 23, will be led by young people including thousands of students from campuses across the UK. The videos will be produced by supporters of For our Future’s Sake (FFS), Our Future Our Choice (OFOC), as well as New Generation for a People’s Vote.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, co-founder of FFS, said:
“What this polling shows is that the overwhelming majority of young people across the United Kingdom back a People's Vote. Young people are concerned about our futures, think Brexit will only benefit the Brexit Elites in Westminster and want to remain a part of the European Union. Politicians should listen to young people and give us a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal - for our future's sake."
Femi Oluwole, OFOC chief spokesperson, said:
“Young people blame the government for the Brexit shambles and the polls show that this generation will follow through by punishing MPs at the ballot box, Young people don’t want to live in a Britain that will result in a fewer jobs, a broken NHS, higher taxes, and no future for their children. But that is exactly what this poll shows they believe will happen after Brexit. There’s only one answer - a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.”
Notes to editors:
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,645 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th - 11th September 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18 to 24). Full fieldwork can be found here: https://bit.ly/2NMmA02