Perhaps the most important implication of our analysis is that the presence of widespread regret in the Brexit referendum should serve as a warning for the design of referendums for major constitutional changeDr Colin Jennings
28 September 2022
Leavers 'more likely to regret Brexit vote' than Remainers, study finds
People who voted ‘leave’ in the 2016 Brexit referendum are more likely to regret their choice than those who voted ‘remain’, according to a new study.
An examination of survey data drawn from thousands of people in the UK found the probability of respondents reporting that they would vote differently if given the chance to do so again was around five per centage points higher for leave voters than for remainers.
The data also found clear signs of regret among those who did not vote in 2016, with about 43 per cent of that group indicating they would vote remain if given the chance to do so, compared to 23 per cent who would vote leave.
The findings were revealed in the paper The Brexit referendum and three types of regret co-authored by Dr Colin Jennings, from the Department of Political Economy at King’s, and Dr Stephen Drinkwater, from the University of Roehampton.
The researchers said: “Data taken from survey results must be treated with caution and a very unlikely fresh referendum would, no doubt, trigger passions in a way that cannot be predicted in advance.
“However, we show that a significant majority surveyed claim that they would vote remain in a new referendum and that, we argue, is driven by leave voters being more likely to switch to remain than vice versa; by non-voters in 2016 being significantly more likely to vote and vote remain and, moreover, that a stronger sense of duty may contribute to higher turnouts amongst those who support remain.”
Data for the study was drawn from the annual British Social Attitudes Survey over a three-year period and featured responses from almost 5,000 people.
According to the survey, about 93 per cent of remain voters would vote in that way again if a new referendum was called, compared with 85 per cent of leave voters. About 10 per cent of those who voted leave in 2016 indicated that they would vote in a different way if given a chance to do so in a new poll, compared with about five per cent of those who voted remain.
Only 1.7 per cent of respondents who voted in the referendum in 2016 reported that they would not vote in another referendum, compared to almost 29 per cent of those who did not vote in 2016.
The researchers added: “Perhaps the most important implication of our analysis is that the presence of widespread regret in the Brexit referendum should serve as a warning for the design of referendums for major constitutional change. Close referendums are not the same as close elections.”
The study was published in the journal Public Choice. You can read it in full here.