Generation gap could see the old vote Britain out of EU

POLITICAL EDITOR

The over-65s could vote Britain out of the European Union even though most people under 35 want to stay in, according to a survey published on Monday.

A stark “generation gap” between the older and younger voters could hold the key to the in/out referendum promised by David Cameron in 2017. The turnout at general elections is much higher among older than younger people and so the poll suggests that unless young adults can be persuaded to take part in the referendum, the UK could decide to leave the EU.

Only 18 per cent of under-35s support withdrawal, compared to 56 per cent of those over 65. Some 69 per cent of over-65s believe quitting the EU would leave them better off financially or unaffected, a view shared by 38 per cent of under-35s.

The survey of 1,200 people was conducted by TNS for Global Counsel, a business consultancy chaired by Lord Mandelson, the Labour former Cabinet minister and ex-European Trade Commissioner.

Stephen Adams, a partner at Global Counsel, said: “A quintessential British Eurosceptic might be said to be a man over 55, probably from a working or lower middle class background, living in the South East of England and no longer in full time employment.  By contrast, younger voters still seem to see merit in EU membership in much larger numbers, especially younger active workers.”

He added: “This raises an interesting and important political question about the role of older Eurosceptic voters in shaping Britain's future role in Europe for their more pro-European younger compatriots.”

Despite rise of the UK Independence Party, Britain is not becoming more uniformly Eurosceptic, the survey suggests. Overall opinion is almost evenly divided between those in favour of exit (35 per cent), staying in (34 per cent) and the third of people who do not know (21 per cent) or who would not vote in a referendum (10 per cent).

One in four women is undecided and could decide the result. In contrast, more men have already made their minds up.

Today Nigel Farage said the expansion of the EU to  include countries such as Romania had created a “gateway for organised crime”. He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: “Everybody knows that. No one dares say it… We have  opened up the doors to countries that have not recovered from communism.” At the same time he promised that Ukip would show it was not racist or homophobic this week when it launched its local election campaign.

There has been a significant shift since the 1975 referendum in which Britain voted to remain in the EU. At the time, support for membership was strongest in the South East and East of England. Today Scotland is the most pro-European region, with 43 per cent in favour of membership compared to 31 per cent in South of England and 36 per cent in London. So support for the EU is weakest in some of the most prosperous regions.

Among the middle class, 43 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women support staying in the EU. But among the working class, the figures are 27 per cent and 26 per cent respectively, with concerns about migration much stronger among this group.

A YouGov survey for The Sunday Times of voting intention in this month's European elections put the Liberal Democrats (7 per cent) in fifth place behind the Greens (8 per cent); the Conservatives (22 per cent); Labour (28 per cent) and Ukip (29 per cent).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss