The Times today leads with a Populus poll showing that 82% of people would like a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

This does not surprise me. Referendums are popular per se, whatever the subject asked about, people will support having a referendum on it. I have only ever seen one poll that has asked a straight question about holding a referendum on a subject and found that people don’t want one – and that was on the monarchy where the overwhelming majority of people support the status quo.* I expect if you found something dull, obscure or procedural enough you might find a another topic on which people would oppose a referendum, but certainly on almost any subject important enough for people to seriously suggest a referendum there is overwhelming support for having one.

If you stop to think about it, it is exactly what you’d expect. People hold politicians in extremely low esteem and asking if they would like a referendum on a subject is pretty much asking “Would you like a say on this subject, or would you like politicians to decide for you?”

That said, the actual question that Populus asked was more nuanced than that, starting to get at the more interesting question of whether a referendum on Europe is something people thought should be a priority right now. As well as support and opposition, Populus gave people the chance of agreeing in principle with a referendum, but saying now was not the time. The detailed results were 18% opposed to a referendum, 33% agreeing in principle, but saying now is not the right time, and almost half – 49% – saying that there should be a referendum on Europe now.

*UPDATE: Thanks to Pablo’s comments below, I have actually found a poll that showed the public opposed to a referendum on something! Eleven years ago in 2001 MORI asked if people wanted a referendum on the monarchy, 40% did, 51% did not.

68 Responses to “Public support a referendum on… well, almost anything frankly”

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  1. @Colin

    Louise Mensch’s entry in Wikipedia contains some interesting factoids about the up and coming Tory MP that you appear to admire so much. This one took my eye, although there are quite a few others suggesting, how shall we say, a rather colourful and eccentric personality:

    “Mensch later faced criticism for incorrectly claiming during the committee that Piers Morgan had written in his autobiography about conducting phone hacking while he was the editor of the Daily Mirror. When challenged on CNN by Morgan, Mensch cited the protection of parliamentary privilege and refused to withdraw the allegation. However, she also refused to repeat it outside parliament, as it would leave her vulnerable to unlimited civil damages from Morgan. She later apologised to Morgan, admitting that she had misread a newspaper report about the book.”

    Great gal, maybe, but truth and accuracy appear to be difficult concepts for the Corby MP. A flair for fiction is a useful attribute for a novelist but can prove problematical in a politician and public servant.

  2. I think Miliband’s position was that he would share a (Yes to AV) platform with anyone who would draw support, but not with someone who repelled voters.

    The plan was for the campaign to be kickstarted with a joint appearance by Miliband, Kennedy and Lucas. What happened next is disputed… was Kennedy banned because Clegg insisted it was his perogative the lead the campaign?

    Clegg had become a symbol of blatant opportunism after the u-turn on deficit reduction, tuition fees etc. Many people interpreted proportional systems as giving the third party (most likely the LDs) a permanent place in government. Advocates of AV just wanted Clegg to hide under a rock until after referendum votes were in the box.

    Look again at those reasons for voting No:

    clear-cut government, rather than coalition rule 33%,
    clear policies and not to fudge or compromise 17%,
    reduce the chance of the Liberal Democrats having a say in who governs Britain in future 10%.

  3. Can we have a referendum on whether people like Louise Mensch?

  4. Yes, yes, yes, I think we’ve quite enough of “supporters of other political parties say why they don’t like MP of opposing party”, you can all desist now. Sigh.

  5. ps: When can we have Max back?

    You could do a referen….

    perhaps not

  6. I think most Labour and Tory MP’s are lovely. All this cynical carping is just devaluing our political system.

    Is that better AW ?

    Sorry the Lib Dems are lovely too. Well most of them.

  7. Given that everyone seems to want a referendum on every cause, how many people actually go out and vote when given the a referendum?


    Tnanks-had read it all myself .

    Still like her though :-)

  9. Latest YouGov/The Sun results 11th June CON 31%, LAB 45%, LD 9%, UKIP 9%; APP -38

  10. Latest YouGov/Sunday Times results 8th-10th June CON 34%, LAB 42%, LD 7%, UKIP 9%; APP -35

  11. Amber

    You are behind the times.

  12. @ Nick P

    Ah! Well done, the YG banner did not change just at the moment you clicked copy. :-)


    Been expecting the lead to increase, as I though a Labour lead of 9% was a bit on the low side.

  14. new thread

  15. Some of the data is showing a 20% labour lead. e.g Men, 40-59 year olds.

  16. I understand Mrs Mensch has been threatened and the person convicted. I could therefore forgive her manic appearance on C4 news this evening, as anyone in her position could be forgiven for being driven to despair by such dreadful experiences. I would, however, have thought her comments about Gordon Brown and the Sun behaviour towards him could have thus been influenced in an way that would have done her credit.

    I predict we have not heard the last of this person as she will be a media item.

    Do these minor media-besotted people affect VI, even marginally? .

  17. Oh, you all left!

  18. I’m not surprised that the majority is in favour of a referendum on almost anything. There is very little to choose between any of the major parties on many topics, and what there is is usually a variation in rhetoric or management style. There is a number of subjects where the main parties are all in agreement, and there is a substantial number of voters of all allegiances who have a different view. Obvious examples are foreign wars, the death penalty and membership of the EU, but there are many others.

    Why doesn’t parliament simply pose questions to the electorate in the form of referenda, and then enact the answers into law? Parliament should represent the people, not rule them.

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