A new poll shows that nearly half of British voters favour leaving the EU

Hazel Prowse burns an EU flag outside the Methodist Central Hall on October 22, 2011 in London, England, following a campaign meeting calling for a UK referendum on membership of the EU. (Photo by )Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesHazel Prowse burns an EU flag outside the Methodist Central Hall on October 22, 2011 in London, England, following a campaign meeting calling for a UK referendum on membership of the EU.

Nearly half of British voters want to leave the European Union, a new poll from Lord Ashcroft has found.

A total of 20,054 people were questioned — with 47% of British voters stating they want to leave the EU, 38% wanting remain in, and 14% undecided. This result is massively different from other recent polls such as one from ICM which found that 41% of people wanted to leave and 42% wanted to remain in the EU.

The reason the Ashcroft poll puts the leave vote so far ahead is probably because it took a completely different approach to the way it presented the question of whether Britain should leave the EU. Instead of directly asking people if they would vote to leave, it asked people to rate themselves on a scale between zero and 100.

Here is the question itself:

As you may know, the government is committed to holding a referendum on the UK’s membership of the

European Union before the end of 2017 — that is, within the next two years. Using a scale from 0 to 100,

please indicate how likely you are to vote one way or the other, where 0 means “I will definitely vote for

the UK to remain a member of the EU, and 100 means “I will definitely vote for the UK to leave the EU”,

and 50 means “I am completely undecided”. (A number between 0 and 50 means you lean towards

voting for Britain to remain a member, and a number between 50 and 100 means you lean towards

voting for Britain to leave).

And here is how people responded:

What the poll shows is that many people have lightly held opinions on whether Britain should remain in the EU, with only 29% of voters putting themselves firmly at one end of the spectrum. On both sides of the scale, 25% of voters said they could easily be persuaded to change their minds.

More than anything, this huge poll from Ashcroft shows that campaigners for both leaving and staying in the EU have everything to play for as Britain.

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