10 April 2019

Assuming the EU grants an extension at the special European Council summit on 10 April, Britain will have to prepare to hold European Parliamentary elections on Thursday 23 May.

Most political parties have scarcely begun organising their campaigns, and support is likely to be volatile. However, a new Open Europe poll conducted by Hanbury Strategy reveals current voting intentions for the European Parliament elections:

Labour – 37.8%

Conservatives – 23.0%

Brexit Party – 10.3%

Liberal Democrats – 8.1%

UKIP – 7.5%

Change UK – 4.1%

SNP – 4.1%

Greens – 4.0%

The level of support for the Conservatives in these elections appears to have been significantly squeezed, perhaps by the emergence of the new Brexit Party. The Conservatives’ support in the event of a General Election is considerably higher at 31.3%, while Labour’s support is similar to the European elections voting intention at 39.9%.

European elections are typically difficult for mainstream parties, and in particular those in Government. At the last European Parliamentary elections in 2014, the Conservatives came third, closely behind Labour, with UKIP in first place.

The voting intention figures above do not account for the likely impact of differential turnouts. At this stage, turnout is expected to be reasonably low, with just 35.2% of respondents saying they were 10/10 likely to vote.

Remain voters seem to be more motivated than Leavers. 37.8% of Leave voters said they were 10/10 likely to vote, compared to 46.9% of Remain voters. In contrast, 18% of Leave voters said their likelihood of voting was just 1/10 – nearly three times more than the 6.4% of Remain voters who rated themselves 1/10 likely to vote in these elections.

Conservative voters are also more likely to show little interest in voting – 12.0% of Conservatives said they had a 1/10 likelihood of voting, compared with 6.4% of Labour voters, and 3.4% of Lib Dems. There are also regional and age variations in the propensity to vote.

The poll registered some support for both new parties which have been formed in recent months – Change UK and the Brexit Party. However, their support could be expected to continue to grow in coming weeks as their name recognition develops. When asked later in the survey about the new parties, after their initial voting intention had been recorded, many respondents showed significant interest in supporting them.

48.1% of Leave voters said they were either likely or very likely to support the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage in the upcoming European elections, compared to 18.0% of Remain voters.

33.4% of Remain voters said they were either likely or very likely to support Change UK which they were told is in favour of “a second referendum on Britain’s exit from the EU.” In contrast 22.7% of Leave voters suggested they were either likely or very likely to support that party.

Commenting on the results Open Europe Director, Henry Newman said:

“Right across the EU, European elections are seen by voters as an opportunity to register a protest. Assuming Brexit is further delayed and the UK is forced to hold elections for new MEPs, those elections will give the public a chance to send a message on Brexit.

“These early results suggest that Labour are on track for a strong performance in the European elections, with the Conservative vote significantly squeezed. 

“The Brexit party and Change UK – new challenger parties at either extreme of the Brexit debate are likely to do well, allowing them to secure a foothold in elected national politics. Nearly half of Leave voters said they were ‘likely’ to support the Brexit party and a third of Remain voters Change UK.”

Notes

  • Hanbury Strategy polled 2,000 respondents between the 5 and 8 April 2019. The full results are available here.
  • MEPs are elected under a proportional system in England, Scotland and Wales with a regional closed list, and in Northern Ireland using a Single Transferable Vote. The UK as a whole elects 73 MEPs, with 3 in Northern Ireland, 6 in Scotland and 4 in Wales. 
  • 2014 European Parliament election results are here (note vote share totals are for Great Britain, as Northern Ireland has a separate system).