We await the next political opinion poll – hopefully tomorrow’s Guardian will have one from ICM, though until Ming Campbell is replaced by a new Liberal Democrat leader we are once again in a sort of polling interregnum with a known unknown bearing down on us.

There were a couple of polls over the weekend. Firstly a Populus poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics showed us what we already knew, that the overwhelming majority of people say they would like a referendum on the new European Treaty, in this case 73%.

67% of people also told Populus that “the issue of Europe is important in the way that I will vote at the next election”. This is somewhat misleading – if you ask people if they think an issue is important or if they care about an issue they will nearly always say yes, to be meaningful they need to pick it out as more important than other issues. In measuring the importance of Europe (or any other for that) as an issue, the best measure is that offered by Ipsos MORI’s monthly tracker of what issues people say are important to the country. Other pollsters ask this of course, but MORI’s stands along because it is regularly done, month in, month out, and more importantly it is unprompted – people aren’t given a list of issues to choose from, they say whatever they think.

In their September poll a whopping 4% of people said that Europe was one of the most important issues facing the country, compared to 43% for immigration, 41% for crime, 36% health and 22% defence and international terrorism. That isn’t to say Europe doesn’t have the potential to be a salient issue – back in 2000 and 2001 when William Hague was banging on about “Saving the Pound” Europe was regulary cited as a major issue facing the country by around 25% of people, it went as high as 43% in 1997. It’s just that, right now, very few people see it as an issue of importance when compared to things they really care about, like immigration, health and crime.

Meanwhile, an ICM poll for the Guardian found that 89% of people thought they were still judged by their class, only 8% thought it was unimportant in shaping the way they were viewed. 53% considered themselves to be working class, 41% middle class – proportions largely unchanged since the late 1990s.


107 Responses to “How many people actually care about Europe?”

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  1. John T

    I just want to respond to one of your points-or else this will go on too far-it probably has already!

    “UK, laws are not subsidiary to thse of the EU,”

    It has been ruled several times by the European Court of Justice that EU law is superior to national laws, and even Member States’ constitutions. Where a conflict arises between EU law and the law of a Member State, EU law takes precedence, so that the law of a Member State must be disapplied. This doctrine, known as the supremacy of EU law, emerged from the European Court of Justice in Costa v. ENEL

    The Commission has sole power to initiate this legislation -and it pours out in bucket loads.
    Since end May this year over 600 new laws have appeared .

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  2. Colin – If any of the 600 (I believe you!) make my life any worse, I’d love to know which and how. “EU law” doesn’t enjoy jurisdiction, say, on Tax, or foreign policy, or any of the other subjects covered by the UK’s opt-outs.

    If the EU robs us of our “democratic” rights, then so does our own “undemocratic” system. Who elected the Crown? If we had to start again from scratch we’d probably be able to devise a more “democratic” system than we have – in the EU as well (I don’t disagree as much as you might think!) , since the driving force behind its original establishment was the proximity of the last World War.

    It would be great to couch debate in terms of facts and figures (what laws exactly, and how do they affect life here?) , but there’s been precious little of those here, and I’m sure that’s the main reason people don’t care about Europe. “600 laws have been passed since May” doesn’t mean anything near as much as, say, “ONE law has been passed which is going to cost you your job”.

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  3. John T

    If you want to understand how EU law has impacted UK it’s very easy to do the research on-line.You just have to be interested enough.

    You seem quite content with the status quo which is fine.-I am not.

    We are on different sides of a divide it seems.
    It’s been fun though
    atb
    Colin

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  4. Fun for me too Colin!

    Cheers

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