Should we stay or should we go? The outs just have it in the most extensive European Union referendum survey of East Anglia
08:55 15 February 2016
East Anglia’s electorate would opt to take Britain out of the European Union if a vote were held tomorrow, our exclusive poll reveals.
The academic view
Chris Hanretty, Reader in Politics, University of East Anglia with an expertise in polling, said: “This poll shows that East Anglia is at odds with the rest of the UK: whilst the rest of the country leans very very slightly to staying in the EU, East Anglia looks as though it’s got one foot out of the door already.
“That’s not surprising to me: in the general election, UKIP racked up lots of votes in East Anglia, and did particularly well in coastal towns compared to the big cities.
“The big unknown, of course, is turnout. This isn’t a general election: every vote really does count. So if, say, Norwich turns out to vote at a very much higher rate than places around the coast from Yarmouth down, then the result could be very different”
But the remain and leave campaigns have all to play for with almost one third of 1,280 people we spoke to in Norfolk, Suffolk, east Cambridgeshire and north Essex still undecided about which box they will tick when referendum polling day arrives.
Reporters from our network of Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times offices conducted the poll in centres across our region last week as David Cameron heads into a crucial few days in his negotiations with European leaders to agree new terms for Britain.
He hopes to strike a deal when the leaders of the 28 European Union member states meet in Brussels this week.
Our poll shows that 38pc of the 1,280 people we spoke to would vote to leave, 34pc would vote to stay and a further 28pc do not know what they will do when the referendum is held, on a date before the end of 2017.
Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt, who is campaigning for Britain to remain, said: “I’m not at all surprised by those results. It shows it is all to play for.
“I think those people who are assuming that Britain will vote to stay in and may not bother to vote themselves should heed these results. The referendum could be lost and if they want Britain to stay in the EU they have to vote.”
But a key campaigner to leave the European Union, Douglas Carswell, the UK Independence Party’s only MP and a University of East Anglia graduate, said the results were very encouraging.
“It shows that everything hinges on the undecided. That is why we must run an upbeat, optimistic, internationalist campaign. The safe option is to vote to take back control from Brussels,” he said.
Britain Stronger in Europe spokesman James McGrory said the polls were all over the place at the moment, but the huge number of undecided showed there was a huge amount to play for in this referendum debate.
But he pointed out there was still no date set for the referendum.
“It shows that in East Anglia, like the rest of the country, there are a huge number of people who have not made up their mind.
“We will be telling them that Britain is stronger, safer and better off in Europe.”
But Conservative Euro MP David Campbell-Bannerman, a long-time eurosceptic, who last week organised a cross-party “Brexit” conference, said: “The poll is quite consistent with national polls. It shows leave edging ahead.
“But the big swing will come when people see through the non-deal and lack of any meaningful reform, and embrace a freer, happier, more secure, and wealthier life outside the European Union.”
Liberal Democrat former minister Norman Lamb said: “I think it will be a close fought campaign this and I think the poll demonstrates there are a significant number of people who are undecided about this.
“That is the crucial group really and it is up to those of us who believe Britain’s future is best served remaining part of the EU to make the case effectively and convince people. I am not a starry eyed enthusiast, but that makes me determined to campaign to change it rather than leave it.
“I think it would be seriously not in our interests to leave.
“We have big challenges on migration, climate change, international crime ahead. The idea we are better able to manage those challenges on our own rather than work across Europe would be misplaced. I am clear our future must be part of the EU.”
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