We want to Remain, say 11 out of 13 polls since the Brexit vote

PUBLISHED: 12:28 09 November 2016 | UPDATED: 10:22 02 December 2016

Prof. Adrian Low analysis the Brexit non-voter data from recent polls. ( http://no2brexit.com )

Prof. Adrian Low analysis the Brexit non-voter data from recent polls. ( http://no2brexit.com )


The UK does not want Brexit, says Professor Adrian Low as he analyses the polls since the EU referendum

In total 46.5 million had the right to vote in the Brexit referendum.

Of those 33.5 million – or 72% – voted.

Compared to general elections it was an exceptional turnout, yet still, 12.9 million people did not vote.

Since the referendum there have been 13 polls, 11 of which show preferences of both voters and non-voters. Among the non-voters there is a continuing average of about 13.8% majority for Remain. Click here to view poll data.

What this means is clear – the UK electorate as a whole does not want Brexit.

The maths is relatively simple. If, as the polls predict, nearly 14% more abstainers want Remain rather than Leave that amounts to 14% of 12.9 million, which is nearly 1.8 million. That is greater than the 1.3 million Leave majority at the referendum.

For about three weeks after June 23 referendum there was a big reversal of the vote in the polls. All of the numbers indicated the UK did not expect the Leave majority of 3.8%.

Leavers changed their minds and the polls reversed that majority in favour of Remain. It was a major reversal into more than double percentage figures. Latterly the significant factor in the polls, for Remain, is the preferences of the non-voter.

Some say, non-voters have forfeited their right to have their views considered. Others that the losers in the referendum since they have lost, should accept the position.

However if the country, both then and now, actually does not want Brexit, what is going on?

The non-voters are 13.8% biased towards staying in the EU. Two possible scenarios, amongst many, are complacency of a Remain victory and the organisational skills of our young people.

The pre-referendum polls said Remain would win. A Remain supporter that needed to leave work early to vote, for example, may not have bothered to rush because Remain is going to win anyway – the polls said so. If you were a Leave voter, you know your vote may actually be needed. So the early journey home is worth it. Such behaviour is well documented in political research. It is why some countries ban polls in the final week of a campaign.

Secondly most 18-24s did not vote but those who did were 75% for Remain. Approximately 1.5 million University students register to vote in their university town but June 23rd would have been, for most, after term had ended. How many of them would have realised early enough to plan a postal vote into their lives? Recognising and planning postal votes might not have been at the top of their agenda.

As of October, about 10% of both Leave and Remain voters have either swapped their preference (5%) or now respond that they do not know what to think (the other 5%). These balance each other, so it is the non-voters who create the electoral majority in the polls for Remain.

Should there ever be another referendum, no-shows last time might be no-shows again, but at least in any second vote the Remainers know they would be on a back foot.

And demographics also change the scene. There are 750,000 new 18 year old voters each year and a balancing number of deaths, the vast majority in the 65+ range. The 18-24s voted 75% in favour of Remain, the 65+ group voted 35% for Remain. The 40% difference means that year-on-year, assuming the referendum voters stick with their choice, there will be 300,000 added to the Remain camp. The calculation is complex because the different groups had different turnouts but a Financial Times model has the Remain camp winning a referendum vote (ignoring all the non-voters) by the end of 2021.

Actually, the tipping point is likely to be sooner than that.

On October 7 the government announced it would implement a manifesto promise to give UK expats who had been outside of the UK for 15 years or more, the opportunity to vote. From a Remain point of view it might have been wise to do that before the referendum. More recent UK expats already had the vote. Estimates vary between one million and five million long-term-resident expats. It is likely that the overwhelming majority of these, like the more recent expat community, would vote Remain.

Two other groups were excluded from voting, both groups requesting voting rights but were denied them. According to the National Union of Students 75% of 16-18s wanted a vote. They had a vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum and this one was just as important. If they voted as the 18-24s, 1.5 million of them would have been 75% for Remain.

And EU residents of the UK, or to be accurate, non-UK, non-Eire EU residents of the UK. In total 2.25 million EU residents in the UK were not allowed to vote. These are probably the group whose lives are most likely to be dramatically affected by Brexit. Their argument is that good democracy is about those who are likely to be affected most having a vote. Needless to say they would most likely have voted to Remain.

So, even if we consider the whole UK population there are two big groups that add substantial numbers to the Remain majority from the electorate. The UK does not want Brexit.

Ultimately it is up to government to decide whether the will of the UK people and/or the will of the UK electorate (voting and non-voting) has any value after a referendum. If it does have value then, at some point in the future the people should have the opportunity to demonstrate what seems to be their wish to Remain. If all UK residents and expats are included, the polls suggest the vote would be much more conclusive than the previous one.

Revd Adrian Low is emeritus professor of computing education at Staffordshire University, and Church of England chaplain to the west of the Costa del Sol in Spain.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a Friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish).
  • Become a Patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You or your company will be mentioned in the newspaper each week (should you wish) and you and a guest will be invited to join the editor at a special lunch in London this June to discuss the anniversary of Brexit.

Supporter Options

Latest articles

We will keep marching for the UK’s future in the EU

Why Saturday’s protest needs to be a display of unity for all our sakes

Just how reliant is our economy on workers born overseas?

It is not just construction, technology and retail that relies heavily on overseas workers. Brexit could impact industries across the economy.

Never has the truth about Brexit been more needed

George Osborne is not the only big newspaper appointment to make waves. Our editor-at-large Alastair Campbell explains why he’s joined The New European

Nicola Sturgeon on Scottish independence: If not now, when?

Theresa May is right that now is not the time for a referendum on Scottish independence. But if she disagrees with our timeframe, she must set out her own alternative

London attacks: how do you protect people from terrorism through urban design?

Westminster attack raises spectre of new ‘rings of steel’ to boost security in urban centres

Alastair Campbell joins The New European as editor-at-large

The New European has announced that Alastair Campbell is joining its editorial board as Editor-at-Large.

Bonnie Greer: With Brexit we have turned our back on the world – and our values

Not everyone who voted leave is a racist or a xenophobe but the campaign and its aftermath has attracted some dubious supporters

Brexit timeline: What happens next once Article 50 is triggered?

When Article 50 is triggered on March 29 there is a two-year deadline for Britain and the EU to complete the hugely complex negotiations

Downing Street tussles with Brussels over £50bn divorce bill as PM names date for Article 50

Article 50: The Government and Brussels have squared up after the PM signalled a date to trigger the formal process to quit the EU

Tory MP’s Hard Brexit warning

Tory MP issues a warning to party colleagues of the dangers of Hard Brexit, as he launches a new initiative to build bridges with Europe

Don’t send Ireland back to division

A family story of the close family bonds between Ireland and the UK, and what Brexit might mean for Ireland.

Dear Mr Gove, we appreciate how our values could be deeply irritating to you

For the avoidance of doubt, Michael, we hold you in contempt.

Indy Ref 2 is coming: the UK is no longer fit for purpose

Scottish nationalist Hardeep Singh Kohli is feeling confident about the prospect of independence for his beloved country

Jack Monroe on trolls, mental breakdown and that libel victory over Katie Hopkins

EXCLUSIVE: A libel victory over Katie Hopkins, a suicide attempt and the hope that we might all finally learn to be a little kinder to one another online

No green Brexit: why the implications look sinister for wildlife

The sinister implications of Brexit for wildlife have rather gone under the radar thus far. But it is likely that we will all see the impact soon enough

How spa culture is taking over Europe (and the 5 best places to join in)

There are few ways to relax that are more European than a trip to a spa. But there are also few things more fraught with potential embarrassment. Here, we provide a guide to the etiquette expected

Why we need a second Brexit vote: First law of politics is people can change their minds

People can, and regularly do, change their minds. The public should be given that option once the Brexit deal is done.

Higher education reforms and Brexit have become inextricably linked

The Brexit Bill is not the only one to have suffered a rough ride in the Lords in recent months.


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter