A new poll by Ipsos MORI shows that Labour are seen as having the best policies on Europe, according to the British public. However, the number who say Labour have the best policies on Europe is smaller than a combination of those saying the Conservatives or UKIP.
A quarter of British adults rate Labour as the best party on Europe (25%), ahead of the Conservatives on 21% and UKIP on 16%. Fewer than one in ten believe the Liberal Democrats have the best policies (7%) – half the amount who back UKIP. One in five answered that they don’t know which party has the best policies (21%). Fieldwork was carried out immediately after David Cameron’s negotiations over the EU budget.
In the early 1990s Europe was an area of strength for the Conservatives with significant leads over Labour. However, since then it has been fairly close between the two parties. The last time Ipsos MORI measured this, in 2007, Labour were ahead of the Conservatives by 3 points (21% to 18%), similar to the gap now. (In 2007 the question did not specifically ask about UKIP.)
Despite the promise of an in/out referendum and David Cameron’s negotiations over the EU budget, just over a quarter of those who voted Conservative in 2010 back UKIP on Europe (28%) with around half (48%) sticking with the Conservatives. Around six in ten current Conservative supporters (57%) back their own party on Europe. The pattern is similar for 2010 Labour voters (48% now say Labour have the best policies on Europe), though fewer say UKIP (more say “don’t know”). Just 22% of 2010 Lib Dem voters and 38% of their current supporters back the Liberal Democrats on Europe.
Support for Labour’s position on Europe comes particularly from the youngest generation. More than a third of 18-34 year olds say Labour are the best party on Europe (37%), compared to 14% who say the Conservatives and 7% each saying the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. Older generations are more likely to back parties on the right in Europe, with UKIP and the Conservatives tied on 24% each (19% choose Labour).
Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI said:
“Looking over the long-term these figures aren’t too surprising, ever since the mid-1990s it has been close between the two parties on this issue among the public as a whole (among those who think Europe is important it tends to be a different story). We also know that the British are becoming more eurosceptic - although not necessarily wanting outright withdrawal – and overall more favour the two parties with a more sceptical position. However it will be disappointing for the Conservatives that even the promise of a referendum and the EU budget announcement hasn’t given them more of a boost.”
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,018 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 9th – 11th February 2013. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.