Polling for the June 23 referendum on a Brexit — Britain leaving the European Union — has proved very volatile with results varying widely from week to week.
But the polling is also uncovering how the issue of Britain’s EU membership is dividing the public along unusual lines.
Labour is generally seen as the mainstream party for the working class, and this trend was alive and well according to a parliamentary report into party membership published in August.
Yet, while the party’s official preference is for Britain to remain in the 28-nation bloc, the majority of working class Brits want the country to pull out, according to research published on Wednesday by YouGov. In fact, the latest YouGov poll said that 47% of working class people wanted a Brexit, to just 26% of middle class respondents.
Widespread concern over the EU’s free movement policy and the impact mass-immigration has had on the wages of low-earners does in part explain the discrepancy between the two.
YouGov cites research by University College London (UCL), which said that immigration to Britain has “depressed” wage distribution among the lowest earners and caused their wages to be driven down. This would also explain why UKIP — the party fronted by Nigel Farage, which has long led calls for Britain to leave the EU — enjoys such strong working class support.
The YouGov research also found that Brits as a whole believe the vast majority of groups included in the survey would be negatively impacted by a Brexit — the worst affected being politicians (-16), people running big businesses (-20), and most of all people from ethnic minorities (-25).
The only exception was small business owners, who respondents thought would benefit if Britain was to leave the EU (+1).
YouGov also asked people which group they felt would be most affected in general (good or bad) by a Brexit. Farmers topped the list (60%), while people looking for work (57%), and people running small businesses (55%) followed close behind. They said rich people would be the least affected (31%).