UCL Grand Challenges


UK Voter Preferences on Brexit

UCL survey of 5,000 voters, with Yougov fieldwork, examining preferences on Brexit.

UCL UK Voter Brexit Survey

23 January 2020


Grant: Ad hoc funded project
Year awarded: 2019-20
Amount awarded: £5,000


    UK Voter Brexit Survey

    In March 2019, UCL's Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding, along with UCL Mathematics, UCL CORU and UCL European Institute, supported a major survey examining voter preferences on Brexit. The research was led by Professor Christina Pagel and Christabel Cooper, with support from Dr Uta Staiger. The survey's fieldwork was done by YouGov, and the raw data can be accessed here

    The survey asked over 5,000 representative UK voters at the end of March to rank four Brexit outcomes in order of preference and found that Leavers now prefer no-deal to all other Brexit outcomes: 53% of Leave voters ranked it number one – more than twice the number of those who favoured Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement or a softer Brexit. Indeed, no-deal was the preferred outcome of Leave voters from every socioeconomic group, every level of education and employment status, from all regions and across supporters of all main political parties. The only significant group of Leavers who did not prefer no-deal were those aged under 30. The survey found that Leavers are relatively untroubled by the potential economic impact of no-deal Brexit. 

    The survey also found that soft-Brexit was not popular as a first choice preference, with most Leavers preferring no-deal and most Remainers preferring outright remain. As such, the researchers cited a lack of compromise on Brexit options. These findings garnered significant media coverage and impacted the political debate at the time. 

    Owen Smith, the Labour MP for Pontypridd, used the results of the survey to make his case that Labour should support a second vote. Mr Smith MP cited the survey's findings in an opinion piece in The Guardian to argue that Labour is in danger of losing votes to parties that are more clearly pro-European at the next general election. The survey also received wide praise from leading journalists and analysts including Evan Davis (BBC Newsnight).