Support for Brexit hardens as optimism grows

Tuesday 3 January 2017

A recent Saga Populus Poll of 9,128 over 50s* reveals that if there were a second EU referendum now, more would vote Leave than in June’s Referendum.  Overall support for Leave was up 2% and Remain was down by 1%.  

Support for Brexit hardens as optimism grows

The biggest net gains for Brexit were in socio-economic group DE – which showed the lead for Brexit widen by 6% to stand at Leave 60%, Remain 26%.  The Remain lead amongst those in socio-economic group AB narrowed by 3% - with Remain at 52% and Leave 41%. The only socio-economic group that Remainers can take comfort in is the C2s where the gap between Leave and Remain narrowed by 1% - albeit Leave were ahead 59% to 32%.

Socio-economic group



Don’t know/won’t say


52%   (-1%)

41%   (+2%)

7%    (no change)


42%   (-1%)

50%   (+1%)

8%    (no change)


32%   (+2%)

59%   (+1%)

9%    (-3%)


26%   (-3%)

60%   (+3%)

14%  (no change)

It also appears that more people are getting off the fence as support for Brexit grew in every UK region apart from London whilst support for Remain grew in only two regions.  In London and the North East Remain support grew by 1%.  Support for Leave remained unchanged in the capital so the Remain camp increased its lead - 54% Remain, 37% Leave.   However, in the North East support for Leave was up 2% - so in common with all other English regions the Brexit lead widened.   

Remain had the lead in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but with reduced majorities.  In Scotland the Remain majority fell from 32% to 28%, in Wales from 4% to 2% and in Northern Ireland from 7% to 1%.

The Panel were asked if they were now more positive or negative about the future of the UK than they were immediately after the EU Referendum result.

Of those polled 41% said they now felt more positive; 26% said there was no change in how they felt about the UK’s future; and, 33% felt negative.  Working class people were the most upbeat about Britain’s future with 52% of those in socio economic group C2 feeling positive.  This compares with 39% of those in socio-economic group AB. London and Scotland were those with the least positive minded people – 31% and 29% respectively, whilst people in Yorkshire were the most positive - 45%.

One of the big questions facing those negotiating Brexit is access to the Single Market.  The majority of people said that free movement of EU citizens was a not a price worth paying for tariff free access to the Single Market.  The highest support for free movement was amongst the wealthiest socio - economic groups with 41% of ABs supporting the free movement of EU citizens in return for tariff free access to the Single Market.  Although even for this group 50% said it was not a price worth paying.

Would free movement of EU citizens be a price worth paying for tariff free access to the EU Single Market?

Socio-economic group















There was a majority for those who believe that free movement should not be given away in the Brexit negotiations except for Scotland where there was a net majority of 4% in favour of free movement.  London had the lowest net majority against free movement (44% for vs 47% against).  The North East and South West were most opposed to free movement (32% for vs 55% against).

Net majority against free movement of EU citizens

North East          (23%)

South West         (23%)

Yorkshire            (22%)

East Anglia          (21%)

East Midlands     (20%)

South East           (20%)

North West         (17%)

West Midlands    (16%)

Northern Ireland (16%)

Wales                    (9%)

London                  (3%)

Growing support for Brexit does not appear to segue into support for the architect of the Referendum, as an earlier poll of nearly 12,000 over 50s in November** showed that just 16% thought that Nigel Farage should get a seat in the House of Lords (68% objected); and 21% thought that Theresa May should ask Nigel Farage to have a role in establishing good relations with president-elect Trump, comparted with 67% who disagreed.

Saga’s Paul Green commented:

“Saga is strictly neutral when it comes to politics.  Our research amongst the over 50s, the group most likely to go to the polls, is telling.  Indeed, our poll just before the Referendum accurately predicted the result as 52% Leave vs 48% Remain.

“Far from being “frit” about the nation’s prospects the over 50s are in a buoyant mood about the prospects for the UK. 

“This confidence will feed through into their economic behaviour – which as one of the largest sources of consumer spending - must be good news for UK plc.  Let’s hope their confidence is well founded and Mrs May achieves the right outcome for Britain in the coming Brexit negotiations. 

“Although there will be many twists and turns in the future negotiations it appears that standing firm against free movement of EU citizens has the support of the majority of the British population – even amongst groups who would have preferred us to remain.”


Notes to editors:

*Populus interviewed 9,128 people aged 50 and over online between 13th and 19th December 2016. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more information visit

**Populus interviewed 11,656 people aged 50 and over online between 22nd and 29th November 2016. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more information visit


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