British citizens overwhelmingly support maintaining or increasing the electoral rights of EU citizens living in the UK, shows new research by the ECREP(1) electoral psychology initiative at LSE, undertaken in partnership with the market research company Opinium.
An internet survey(2), conducted on 4-6 October, found that 49 per cent of Britons support giving EU citizens who live in the UK the right to vote in general elections in addition to their current right to vote in local elections. This is up one percentage point on the findings of a similar poll that was conducted in June.
An additional 25 per cent support maintaining the right of EU citizens to vote in local elections only. Only ten per cent of those surveyed support the government’s position of ending EU citizens’ current rights to vote in local elections.
Of those who voted to leave the European Union, 67 per cent said the government should extend or maintain EU citizens’ current electoral rights. In contrast, only 19 per cent of leave voters support the government’s position. For those who voted ‘Remain’, the figures were 86 per cent and two per cent respectively.
The study was jointly conducted by Professor Michael Bruter and Dr Sarah Harrison from the ECREP initiative.
Dr Sarah Harrison said: “The electoral rights of EU citizens living in the UK are proving to be a sticking point in Brexit negotiations. Yet our findings show that the public is overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining EU citizens’ rights to vote in local elections. Indeed, nearly half of Brits would consider it right to see those rights extended to general elections – which would bring the rights of EU citizens into line with Commonwealth citizens living in the UK.”
Those polled were also asked how much they would be willing to pay to keep their EU citizenship. Sixty eight per cent said they would be willing to pay an average of £500 per person per year.
Professor Michael Bruter commented: “Five hundred pounds is nearly four times the net contribution the average Briton currently makes to the EU budget every year.”
Eighty three per cent of 18- 24 year olds said they would be willing to pay for EU citizenship. Seventy eight per cent of Londoners also said they would be willing to pay and would be willing to pay an annual fee of, on average, over £800.