Brexit negotiations and public opinion – CSI’s Brexit survey launched

The team working on the Brexit project at CSI are pleased to announce that the fieldwork has commenced.
The project on ‘Red lines and compromises’ began with a short pilot study among a panel of 100 people surveyed from across England, which included a knowledge quiz. Preliminary results suggest that the pilot respondents are fairly savvy on some items, with most knowing that Angela Merkel is not the president of the EU and that Russia is not an EU member state. When it came to questions with more complexity, however, answers proved more difficult. For example, 63% of respondents believe that two thirds of the migrants who moved to the UK last year came from within the EU, when in fact, EU net migration accounts for about half of the immigrants who come to the UK.
The study aims to engage 5000 respondents in each survey round it undertakes over the next 18 months. In addition to the knowledge quiz, questions have also been designed to find out where the public might be willing to compromise on key Brexit issues, and what their ‘red lines’ are. The survey will ask questions to explore attitudes on key issues that are expected to be central during the negotiations, such as: Sovereignty and law making; The Irish border; Immigration; The rights of UK nationals living in the EU; Exports to the EU; Scientific collaboration; and Budget contributions. The study aims to show, for example, how much of a priority people place on the ability to make laws independently of the EU; how much they think is reasonable to spend on ‘the divorce bill’; and whether people are getting more concerned as negotiations reveal details about how rights of British expats in the EU may change.
Given the democratic nature of the referendum and government’s clear intention to keep faith with the electorate, public opinion is likely to be a crucial constraint throughout the Brexit negotiations.  However, voter preferences across different issues are going to be challenging to translate into outcomes. This research project aims to provide timely evidence to policy-makers throughout the period of the Brexit negotiations on citizens’ preferences, aspirations and expectations for key aspects of the negotiations. In addition, survey results will contribute to establishing a more in-depth understanding of the dynamics and drivers of these attitudes. What is the role of identity in opinion formation and change, for example, and how will opinion be influenced by political and economic events over the next 18 months? Over the course of the project, the Centre for Social Investigation will run regular workshops for policy makers, including representatives from the Government Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU).
We will go back to the panel of respondents, with some new questions, some the same, every three months until they have gathered six rounds of data. The first findings are expected to be published in a short report in September.  As the project progresses, regular announcements will be made on the Nuffield College website and Facebook page, the CSI website, and Twitter.
The project, ‘Red lines and compromises’, is funded by the ESRC, and led by Professor Anthony Heath, Dr Lindsay Richards and Dr Noah Carl.