Employment or immigration: which matters more?

14 October 2016
What was claimed

Voters don’t support a version of Brexit that will cost jobs.

Our verdict

There’s polling evidence going both ways.

“How many people here voted to take their next door neighbour's job away?”

Emily Thornberry MP, 13 October 2016

Assuming that leaving the EU single market would have an effect on jobs, how do people feel about it?

The polling evidence is mixed.

Certainly more people thought that unemployment would go up than down as a result of leaving the EU—32% compared to 22%—according to polling for Ipsos Mori in April and May 2016. But the sample contained more people leaning towards Remain, and we don’t know how many went on to vote Leave.

A poll for ORB just after the referendum showed that the public broke 48% to 37% in favour of staying in the single market over limiting EU immigration (unlikely to be possible in the single market). Similar preferences were recorded in some of the other polls in June and July.

But others say the opposite. In a poll this month, YouGov found a clear preference for leaving the single market in order to limit immigration.

Polling expert John Curtice suggests this shows that “many voters do not have very firm views about which is the more important objective”.

People seem to have different priorities when the question is put a different way., When asked how much of their personal income they would sacrifice to reduce immigration, less than 40% were prepared to pay anything.

In all these cases, Leave voters were much more prepared to trade economic benefits for lower immigration than voters generally.

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