Labour Leavers: The lowest of the high-hanging fruit

New data from Deltapoll suggests that the importance Labour-voting Leavers attach to actually exiting the European Union is lower than for other pro-Brexit groups. This makes Labour Leavers the closest thing the Brexit debate has to “floating voters.”

The Labour Party has been divided on the question of how to implement the referendum result. As Brexit approaches a crunch point the new data has potentially significant implications for its Brexit stance.

Potential fading support for Brexit has been the subject of recent analysis. Peter Kellner, is his recent article for Prospect, showed data indicating that this could be largely driven by Labour-supporting Leavers whose support for Brexit may have waned in the two years since the referendum. The data from Deltapoll shines more light on this group to help explain why that might be.

Deltapoll asked those who voted Remain in the EU Referendum how important it was that the UK remain in the EU, and then flipped the question for those who voted Leave, asking them how important it was the UK leaves.

The overall finding was remarkable. True, both sides thought it was important that the result they voted for in the referendum was then the eventual outcome. Among those who voted Leave, over three quarters (76 per cent) thought it was important, and of those 38 per cent thought it was very important.

For Remainers, the figure was even higher. Over eight in ten (84 per cent) of those who voted Remain thought it was important the UK remain in the EU, with nearly half (46 per cent) thinking it was very important.

Within the ranks of Conservative voters, Remainers and Leavers look strikingly similar in terms of the importance they attach to the issue—with 87 per cent of both groups saying it is important.

Labour Remainers are very similar in terms of the total saying important. Nearly nine out of ten (88 per cent) say staying the EU is important—the highest of the four groups—and over half (51 per cent) say it is very important.

But here is the crucial point. The figures for Labour Leavers are noticeably lower. Only just over seven out of ten of that group (71 per cent) think it is important and fewer than one third (32 per cent) think it’s very important.

Now granted only 71 per cent is obviously still high, but it is a lot less that 88 per cent—and the difference between Labour Remainers and Labour Leavers on the “very important” measure is quite significant: over half is a big bump up from under a third. Furthermore, it is worth remembering that among Labour voters, Leavers are by far the smaller of the two groups, estimated to account for just over a third (35 per cent) of all the party’s voters.

This could potentially have implications for the approach the Labour party takes to Brexit. If you are looking for a group of “floating Brexit voters,” then Labour Leavers are the closest thing. On the evidence of this data, pursuing a more overt and explicit Remain strategy, or “coming off the Brexit fence” as Kellner calls it, may not be as risky as previously believed.

Clearly there is much more that will go into the strategic calculation that Jeremy Corbyn and his team make when considering Labour’s position on Brexit—not least how those Labour Leavers are geographically distributed across key constituencies. But with Labour MPs reportedly divided over the latest amendments seeking to maintain an “internal market” with the EU, the importance—or otherwise—that Labour Leavers attach to Brexit may well be something they wish to take into account.

Deltapoll interviewed a nationally-representative sample of 1,013 British adults online between 30th May and 1st June 2018. The data have been weighted to be representative of the British adult population as a whole.

This article originally appeared in Prospect

Joe TwymanAuthor: Joe Twyman