Britain’s trade union members overwhelmingly want a People’s Vote, would choose to stay in the European Union - and are much more likely to support the Labour if the party gives them that chance - according to a new YouGov poll.
The findings of this survey of 1,813 members is published before Jeremy Corbyn is scheduled to meet trade union general secretaries this week to discuss Labour’s policy on Brexit.
It confounds claims made about the party’s traditional support and has already prompted fresh demands for the party to move further and faster to reflect the views of the Labour movement as a whole.
The polls shows that rank-and-file trade union members:
- Support staying in the EU by a margin of 71 to 29 per cent if there is a new referendum.
- Back having a People’s Vote by 64 to 33 per cent.
- Support for such a final say referendum rises to 78 per cent with just 17 per cent opposed among trade unionists who voted Labour in the last General Election.
- Want Labour to campaign for the UK to stay in the EU by a three-to-one margin of 60 to 21 percent – rising to 74 to 10 per cent among the party’s 2017 voters.
- Think Labour’s current position on Brexit is confusing or unclear by a margin of 81 to 16 per cent.
- Are three times more likely to vote Labour if it clearly backs a People’s Vote than would put off supporting the party. Among trade unionists who said it would make a difference, 35 per cent would be more likely to vote Labour against just 12 per cent who say it would make them less likely.
- Say it is more important to have free trade than to control immigration by a margin 73 to 20 per cent.
The survey will make grim reading for Jeremy Corbyn because it suggests just 39 per cent of trade unionists currently intend to vote Labour as support haemorrhages to parties clearly campaigning for a final say referendum.
Of Labour’s 2017 support among trade unionists, just 64 per cent have stuck with the party with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens picking up 29 per cent between them compared to just 4 per cent for the Brexit Party.
The poll also reveals deepening pessimism about the prospects for working people if Brexit goes ahead, showing that trade unionists believe by a margin of:
- 69 to 13 per cent that the economy will be weaker rather than stronger
- 61 to 6 per cent that living standards will decline
- 64 to 10 per cent that the NHS will get worse
- 66 to 11 per cent that it will be bad for jobs
- 54 to 10 per cent that there will be fewer opportunities
- 67 to 11 per cent that it will be harder to sell British goods abroad.
Jo Stevens, the Secretary of the Trade Union Group of Labour MPs and a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
"Labour is moving to giving the people the final say on Brexit and campaigning to stay. This is the right thing to do for our economy, jobs and our internationalist outward-looking trade union and Labour values
“But Labour’s official position is still too far behind that of our party members and voters, not to mention grassroots trade unionists who are the bedrock of our movement
“When Jeremy Corbyn meets with trade union general secretaries, I hope he hears the strong message from working people, trade union members up and down the country, that we want a People’s Vote just like his constituents do in Islington – because now, more than ever, we need those voices to be heard.”
Peter Kellner, the former President of YouGov, said:
“YouGov’s survey of more than 1,800 union members is large enough to provide separate data on members of the three biggest unions – Unison, Unite and GMB. Although views vary slightly, clear majorities in all three unions back a new public vote and a Remain outcome.
“One of the main drivers of union opinion is growing concern about the impact of Brexit on jobs and living standards. Fears on both fronts have risen since YouGov polled the members of the big unions last September. Overall, by a margin of 69-13 per cent, union members say Brexit would be bad for the economy, and by 61-5 per cent they fear their own family would be worse off.
“That said, a significant minority of union members – 20 per cent – voted for the Brexit Party in last months’ election to the European Parliament. Labour, with 23 per cent, was only narrowly ahead. But twice as many, 45 per cent, voted for one of the explicitly Remain parties – Liberal Democrats (21 per cent), Green (17 per cent) or SNP, Plaid Cymru or Change UK.
“It should be noted that Labour has never enjoyed a monopoly, or anything like it, of union members’ votes. Asked who they would back in a general election, Labour’s current support, 39 per cent, is precisely the same as in 1983, when Michael Foot was Labour’s leader. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives were not far behind, with 31 per cent – a far cry from today’s 9 per cent. Today’s 21 per cent union support for the Lib Dems compares with the SDP/Liberal Alliance’s 29 per cent 36 years ago. In this historical context, the Brexit Party’s popularity (20 per cent last month, now down to 13 per cent when union members are asked about a general election) is actually rather modest.”
Notes to editors:
The full results can be found here: https://bit.ly/2x9ukiT