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UK Insights

Trust in EU highest in London, Northern Ireland, East of England and Scotland

Luke Taylor

Head of Social and Political Attitudes

Politics 13.05.2016 / 08:00

Brexit map YELLOW

Exploring UK regional differences ahead of the EU referendum

How might regional differences in opinion play a role in determining the final outcome of the EU referendum? Looking at the September 2015 Flash Eurobarometer, carried out by Kantar company TNS, one thing is very clear, trust in the European Union has in fact increased across most regions of the UK since 2012.

Region Eurobarometer 2012 trust in the EU Eurobarometer 2015 trust in the EU 2012-2015 change
London  30%  43% +13%*
Northern Ireland  31%  40% +9%*
East of England  19%  37%  +18%*
Scotland  26%  37% +11%*
South West  20%  35%  +15%*
North East  19%  33%  +14%*
North West  22%  31%  +9%*
Wales  24%  31%  +7%*
East Midlands  21%  30%  +9%*
South East  23%  28%  +5%
Yorkshire and the Humber  23%  27%  +4%
West Midlands  21%  25%  +4%

* indicates a statistically significant change (95% level)

The advantage of using the Flash Eurobarometer is that its large sample size of 3,605 interviews (300 per region in the UK) allows us to break down the results by region in a manner that a smaller survey, such as an opinion poll, with a sample size of around 1000, does not.

When asked whether they tended to trust the European Union, those regions with the highest levels of trust were London, Northern Ireland, the East of England and Scotland, whilst those regions with the lowest trust were the South East of England, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber. As shown in the table/chart above, the difference between London, which had the highest level of trust, and the West Midlands, which had the lowest, was 18%.

It seems reasonable to assume that regions with higher levels of trust in the EU are likely to have a higher propensity for voting “Remain” in the referendum. However, it should still be noted that this is not a perfect measure.

In terms of how regional differences  might impact the referendum, some insight can be gleamed from looking at levels of  turnout for the last two general elections (as shown in the following table). One notable change between the two elections is how a higher turnout in Scotland in 2015 resulted in an increase of 1.2 percentage points of the share of the total valid vote.

With Scotland’s comparatively more positive attitude towards Europe it will be interesting to see what the turnout will be there on 23rd June. While the Scottish Independence referendum has increased the level of engagement in politics (as reflected in the high 2015 General Election turnout) there is a risk that holding the EU referendum only one month after the Holyrood election may lead to fatigue among the Scottish electorate.

Region 2015 general election regional turnout 2010 general Eeection % of valid vote 2015 general election regional turnout 2015 general election % of valid vote
London 64% 11% 65% 12%
Northern Ireland 58% 2% 58% 2%
East of England 68% 10% 68% 10%
Scotland 64% 8% 71% 9%
South West 69% 9% 70% 9%
North East 61% 4% 62% 4%
North West 62% 11% 64% 11%
Wales 65% 5% 66% 5%
East Midlands 67% 7% 66% 7%
South East 68% 14% 69% 14%
Yorkshire and the Humber 63% 8% 63% 8%
West Midlands 65% 9% 64% 9%
United Kingdom 65% 100% 66% 100%

It is clear that attitudes towards the EU do vary from region to region and that the level of turnout in each region could have an impact on the outcome of the referendum. The two campaigns will need to take this into account when choosing where to focus their resources.

Source : Kantar TNS

Editor's Notes

The Eurobarometer survey is carried out by Kantar's TNS for the European Commission (Directorate-General for Communication, “Strategy, Corporate Communication Actions and Eurobarometer” Unit).

2015 survey: Flash Eurobarometer 427 Public opinion in the EU regions. The survey was conducted by telephone (fixed-line and mobile phone) between 3rd – 23rd September 2015. A representative sample of 3,605 individuals aged 15+ living in the UK were interviewed (300 per region).

2012 survey: Flash Eurobarometer 356 Public opinion in the EU regions. The survey was conducted by telephone (fixed-line and mobile phone) between 10th August – 15th September 2012. A representative sample of 3,607 individuals aged 15+ living in the UK were interviewed (300 per region).

Turnout for the General Elections data comes from the Electoral Commission.

Journalists, to interview Luke Taylor, or for more information, please contact us.

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