Nearly half of British citizens (48 per cent) would like to extend the voting rights of EU residents to include a right to vote in General Elections. This is one of the findings of a survey produced by Professor Michael Bruter and Dr Sarah Harrison from the ‘ECREP’ Electoral Psychology Initiative at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), in collaboration with insight agency Opinium.
In addition to the support for extending voting rights, 25 per cent of British people would maintain the current situation where EU citizens have the right to vote in local elections, with only 10 per cent of respondents supporting the Government’s proposal to withdraw EU citizens’ right to vote. Overall this means 73 per cent of British voters would like to either protect or extend voting rights for EU citizens.
The survey found opinion is more evenly split on the minimal five-year residence condition the Government wants to impose on EU citizens to receive ‘settled’ status. Forty-two per cent of British people support the Government’s residence condition whilst 41 per cent are against it, including 25 per cent who think all EU citizens coming to settle in the UK in future should continue to receive the same rights.
The same survey also found 68 per cent of people would be willing to pay to keep EU citizenship rights in addition to British citizenship, with an average proposed cost of £594 per year.
Even when counting the 32 per cent unwilling to pay anything, it means people are willing to pay an average of £405 per person per year to keep EU citizenship. This is three times more than the current per capita net contribution of British citizens to the EU, which the House of Commons Library estimated to be £128 per person per year in 2011.
The responses to this section of the survey re-emphasised the generational and regional divides witnessed in last year’s EU referendum, with 83 per cent of young people (aged 18-24) and 78 per cent of Londoners willing to pay to retain EU citizenship. Even counting those unwilling to pay anything, people aged 18-24 would be prepared to pay an average of £594 per year to maintain EU rights, nearly double what those aged 65 and over would be willing to contribute. This hypothetical contribution increases to £808 per person per year in London.
Commenting on the response to questions on voting rights, Dr Harrison said, "British people clearly consider EU citizens who have settled in this country as a full and essential part of society. They would like to maintain their electoral rights and, for nearly half of them, give them the right to vote in General Elections. This signals people will likely resent any offer which takes rights away from Europeans who have made their life here and contributed to British society.”
On the response to maintaining access to EU citizenship rights, Professor Bruter added, “Many British citizens – and particularly young ones – are still very unhappy to lose the rights associated with their current EU citizenship, notably the rights to live, work, and study anywhere in the EU. They would paradoxically be willing to pay far more than they currently do to retain those rights.”