British reservations about Europe have been apparent for at least 50 years

By Peter Bartram

Teresa May’s insistence on honouring the 52% to 48% result of the Brexit Referendum is reinforced by historical evidence that the British people have always had strong reservations about their links with Europe.

As shown by results accessible via the Archive of Market and Social Research (AMSR) website, in September 1969 the Harris Poll found that 54% of voters were against Britain joining the Common Market while only 30% were in favour.  By February 1970 a further poll found that this difference had stretched wider, with a 63% to 19% negative result.  And then in a poll on the eve of the Commons vote in October 1971, the difference narrowed, but still 49% were found to be against joining while only 30% were in favour. Despite that, 84% assumed that Britain would join.

Among many other questions covered in these polls, in the last of them, voters were asked whether they thought the Government had given enough time and opportunity for full nationwide discussion on the issues: as many as 59% thought they had not.

Plus ca change, and for 50 years the divide over Europe has clearly been a running sore not only in the Tory party but also across the nation as a whole.

This report and many others can be found in the Archive for Market and Social Research (AMSR), a new national resource being established for all those interested in market and social research.  It will be useful to users and suppliers; to media organisations; and to students of the history of social attitudes and consumer behaviour as well as the history of research.