There’s another big vote happening in 2016, and this one doesn’t involve anyone whose name rhymes with “grump.” British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens will vote on June 23 to decide whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave the international economic and political consortium.
Public opinion on the issue is nearly evenly split. HuffPost Pollster’s new chart of polling averages shows that 49 percent of U.K. citizens say the country should remain in the EU, and about 46 percent say it should leave. About 6 percent are undecided, which could swing the vote in either direction.
The U.K. has been a member of the EU since 1973, and the last time the British people voted on membership was in 1975. Over the last three decades, the EU has grown to 28 countries and extended its reach beyond economic issues to politics, immigration and governance -- including the European Parliament and the euro as common currency.
The EU’s heavy-handed influence in U.K. politics and economic affairs doesn’t sit well with many conservatives in the country. A primary goal of the EU is to integrate the members into a single economy and move toward “closer union,” which many in the U.K. oppose. EU members also agree to unrestricted migration between their countries, and some want the U.K. to regain control of its borders.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum if his party prevailed in the 2015 election in response to increasing unrest in the country, and his own party, about membership. After negotiating some concessions from the EU in February -- including guarantees that the U.K. would not be subjected to unwanted political integration or required to use the euro -- Cameron set the referendum for June.
President Barack Obama and other U.S. political leaders have encouraged the Brits to vote to stay in the EU, largely because an exit means that the U.K. would no longer be governed by the EU’s economic rules. Some warn that a British exit, or “Brexit,” could destabilize the European and global economies. Most of the arguments to stay in the EU revolve around the economic benefits the union offers.
The HuffPost Pollster chart begins on April 1, since the official campaign period leading up to the referendum began on April 15. Public opinion has remained stable, although the number of undecided voters dropped after the campaign began. There could be more shifting as campaigns for both sides try to persuade voters. HuffPost Pollster will add new polls as they come out and track how opinion changes as the June 23 vote approaches.
Methodology: The chart includes all of the polls released since April 1 from pollsters who are members of the British Polling Council. The BPC requires pollsters to disclose the same information about their polls that HuffPost Pollster asks of pollsters in the US. The trend line is calculated using a regression-based trend estimate that combines recent polling into the most likely estimate of current opinion based on the polls available.