Immigration is lowest concern on young voters’ Brexit list
Poll finds 18-34s put the issue at bottom of list of 22 priorities
Young voters aged 18 to 34 believe that reducing immigration is the least important issue Theresa May should focus on as she prepares to take the UK out of the EU, a new poll has found.
The survey by Opinium found that people in this age group put reducing numbers coming into the UK last out of 22 priorities, with the availability of jobs, protection of human rights and well-funded public services their main concerns.
The poll commissioned by Brexit Watch, run by thinktank Common Vision, highlights a sharp generational divide in views on the direction in which the UK is heading. It found that 57% of young people are not confident Brexit is being negotiated to suit their interests, against 28% who are confident.
Brexit strategy – that concern about immigration is so great that it should drive government policy. In her Brexit speech last week May made clear that public concern over immigration had left the government with no option but to leave the EU single market, because retaining membership would mean that the UK had to continue to accept EU free movement.
When asked to rate Brexit priorities on a scale of 0 to 10, reducing immigration from the EU scored just 5.85 among 18 to 34-year-olds, below the need to share arts and culture between EU countries (6.34, in 21st place) and reducing poverty (6.21, 19th place.)
Ensuring jobs are available scored highest among young voters (8.02) with protection of human rights second (7.95). Reducing immigration scored far higher among the over-55 age group (7.63) though even among these voters it was still not seen as so important as 12 other issues. Among over-55s, public services and free trade with non-EU countries were judged as most important.
Overall, 57% of 18 to 34-year-olds said they were not confident that Brexit was being negotiated in a way that suits their interests against just 28% who said they were confident. By contrast, those aged over 55 were fairly evenly split, with 41% saying they were confident and 43% saying they were not.
Common Vision aims to promote the interests of young people and ensure they are reflected in Brexit negotiations.
Caroline Macfarland, director of Common Vision, said: “While the prime minister’s speech appealed to some of the interests of younger people, such as workers’ rights and parliamentary democracy, the emphasis on national sovereignty and immigration – key interests for older but not younger voters – risks repeating the failure of the referendum debate to engage with the next generation.
“Young people are far more concerned about freedom of movement than reducing immigration, which our poll today found to be the least important issue for 18-34-year-olds from a list of 22 issues.
“In this context, it’s not surprising that 57% of 18-34-year-olds don’t have confidence that Brexit will be negotiated in a way that best suits their interests. Theresa May needs to make an explicit commitment to sourcing, reviewing and accounting for the views of young people in the Brexit process otherwise the implications on trust and political engagement will be dire, and waste the profound opportunity we have to use Brexit to design a new political and economic settlement which recapitalises young people.”
Around 70% of young people aged 18 to 24 who voted in the June 23 referendum supported remaining in the EU. Turnout among this age group was lower than among older voters but still high at over 60% and higher than expected by pollsters before polling day.