Revealed: Lib Dem voters’ views on the EU

by Stephen Tall on June 17, 2008

A new YouGov poll for the Open Europe think-tank has, pretty unsurprisingly, shown the public’s current scepticism towards the Lisbon treaty and the EU. As the poll’s findings are broken down by voting intention, it also gives us a glimpse into what Lib Dem voters’ attitudes are towards Europe right now. (Compulsory caveat: the sample numbers for Lib Dem voters are small – 144 in the weighted sample – which means the margin of error is much greater).

The full results are here. Here are the Lib Dem voters-only figures:

Which one of the following statements comes closest to your views in light of the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty?
The government should carry on and ratify the Lisbon treaty in the UK: 23%
The government should drop the Lisbon treaty and not try and ratify it: 49%
Don’t know: 29%

Though the Lib Dem voters were the most likely (compared with Labour and Tory voters) to suggest the Government adopt a gung-ho approach to ratifying Lisbon, it’s striking that almost half say it should be put out of its misery immediately.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements? ‘The EU is out of touch with normal people’
Strongly agree: 25%
Agree: 33%
Neither agree nor disagree: 20%
Disagree: 14%
Strongly disagree: 4%
Don’t know: 5%

Again, although lib Dems were a little more likely to view the EU kindly, some 58% view the EU as out of touch, with only 18% taking the contrary position.

Can you name any of your local MEPs without looking them up?
Yes: 6%
No: 90%
Don’t know: 4%

YouGov asked those who responded ‘Yes’ to this question then to write in the name(s) of their local MEPs. The most popular answer was ‘Neil Kinnock’ – not, of course, an MEP. Someone took the trouble to write-in, ‘Robert Kilroy-Silk – useless!’ Among Lib Dem MEPs correctly identified were: Sharon Bowles, Sarah Ludford, Jean Lambert, Fiona Hall, Emma Nicholson, Elsbeth Atwood [sic] and Chris Davies. Mark Hunter MP and Lembit Opik MP both earned honourable but inaccurate mentions.

This is, in my view, perhaps the most devastating finding of the poll. Lib Dems have long campaigned for greater powers to be taken away from the unelected European Commission and handed to the elected European Parliament. Certainly that would increase democratic accountability. But it’s clear the Parliament has a long way to go to earn recognition for its members, let alone trust. As has frequently been remarked of Westminster, although MPs are generally regarded sceptically by the public, their local MP is much more likely to be rated positively (because people have got to know them, either personally or through local media). British MEPs of all parties seemingly have a long way to go.

The European Union evolved around economic co-operation, establishing a ‘single market’ where people, goods, investment and services can move freely between member states. It was expanded over the years to include making other political decisions on issues such as foreign policy, immigration and crime. Which one of the following statements comes closest to your views?
The UK should stay in the EU: 40%
The UK should stay in the single market but pull out of the other political elements of the EU: 35%
The UK should leave the EU altogether: 18%
Don’t know: 7%

Again, the Lib Dem voters were the most pro-European (just 20% of Tory voters want to stay in the EU, with one-quarter wanting to leave it). The wording of the question here is, perhaps, suspect: choosing immigration and crime as the two areas of ‘political’ decision-making in which the EU might be involved gives off highly negative connotations. I wonder what might have been the response from voters of all parties if cross-border issues like ‘tackling pollution’ and ‘drug trafficking control’ had been selected instead?