Open Britain - Poll on Students and Brexit Regret

Voting | 11 Mar 2017


Open Britain commissioned YouthSight to conduct a poll of UK students to see how they voted in the EU referendum, determine levels of regret in relation to the vote and understand how students would like to see Brexit proceed from this point onward. 

The press release issued by Open Britain and checked by YouthSight is set out below, along with the data tables and the survey methodology.
Open Britain is a campaigning group that believes the UK is stronger within the European Union. They promote a close relationship with Europe and for the Government to change its ‘Hard Brexit’ course.

Data Tables

Click here to download the weighted data tables.



The survey was hosted on the YouthSight Student Omnibus, the UK’s only weekly dedicated student omnibus survey. Fieldwork ran from 24th to 28th February 2016.  Every Student Omnibus is based on at least 1,000 complete interviews with full-time undergraduates at publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK. Quotas are set for course year (1,2,3+), gender and university type (Russell group, pre 1992 universities, post 1992 universities and specialist institutions). Targets for the quotas are acquired using current data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Weights are also occasionally used to ensure the sample is fully representative. All completers received £1.67 in shopping voucher credits.  All participants are members of The OpinionPanel Community, YouthSight’s proprietary research panel, comprised of over 140,000 members aged 16 to 30 including 80,000 students.



Open Britain Press Release in full

New poll reveals hard Brexit is alienating a generation of young people

A new poll of students, commissioned by the Open Britain campaign, has revealed that they feel their views on Brexit are being ignored by the Government. They mainly voted Remain the referendum campaign; are pessimistic about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations; oppose hard Brexit; and overwhelming want to have a final say over the Brexit deal.

To examine the attitudes of students towards Brexit, Open Britain teamed up with YouthSight, the experts in researching Millennials. The survey, the most extensive of its kind since the referendum, revealed three key findings.
Students are pro-European. The overwhelming majority of students (84%) voted Remain and 99% of them have no ‘bregrets’ about doing so. By contrast, 9% of the 16% of students who voted Leave regret it. Among students who did not vote, two-thirds now say they would vote Remain, compared to just 13% who would vote to Leave.

For them, the economy is the priority. Regardless of how they voted. For both Remain (76%) and Leave (64%) voters, protecting jobs and future employment opportunities was the top priority in the Brexit negotiations. As a result, the clear majority support a soft Brexit (72%) over a hard Brexit (17%), though nearly two thirds of Leave voting students favour the latter.

Young people want their voice to be heard. They are extremely pessimistic about the outcome of Brexit negotiations, particularly on the economy. More than five times as many students think their prospects will change for the worse because of Brexit than for the better. Consequently, they are critical of the Government. By a ratio of fourteen to one young people think that the Government are engaging with young people badly. Most importantly, more than eight in ten students want to have their say over the final Brexit deal, with 53% backing a second referendum and 25% wanting it done through their elected representatives in Parliament.

Nicky Morgan MP, leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said:

“Young people will be most affected by Brexit and will have to live with its ramifications for the longest. The decisions taken in the negotiations will determine their future opportunities but, shamefully, they feel they are being locked out of the political debate and have no one to speak for them.

“Young people feel overlooked and pessimistic about their own futures and are simply not prepared to write Ministers a blank cheque to pursue Brexit at any cost.

“The next generation want a democratic backstop against the kind of hard, destructive Brexit they fear will put our economy at risk, damage their life chances and alienate them even more.

“It is clear from this research that young people expect their MPs to have a proper meaningful say over the final Brexit deal. MPs must have a say at the end of the Government’s negotiations with the EU, whatever the outcome.

“It cannot be right that the EU Parliament could have a greater say than the UK Parliament – those in favour of leaving the EU campaigned to ‘take back control’ and that control rests properly in our Parliament.”

Ben Marks, the Managing Director of YouthSight, added:

"This research shows that the next generation of business leaders, teachers, doctors and politicians are unhappy about most aspects of Brexit.

Referendum participation among students was high. The Remain vote was dominant, and the idea of a hard Brexit is extremely unpopular.

It’s unusual to see such a definitive picture emerge from opinion research among students, so these results should sound a note of caution for those in power looking to push through a hard Brexit agenda whilst retaining the support of the next generation of professionals on whom the country will be dependent.”

Notes to editors

For all media enquiries and bids, call Will Cousins on 07801 231485. When using this research or quote, please reference the Open Britain campaign.
YouthSight are an award-winning youth research agency:
YouthSight surveyed 1,023 full-time undergraduate students to see how they voted; how they feel about their vote now; what their views are on key topics related to Brexit; whether they feel pessimistic or optimistic about the outcome of Brexit; and how they feel about the Government’s engagement with young people to date.
The central findings and results can be read in this note:


Results in detail

Students are overall heavily pro-Remain

  • 84% of students who voted voted Remain; 16% voted Leave


There is little sign of ‘Bregret’, though it is more prominent amongst Leave voters

  • 99% of those who voted Remain feel happy about their vote; 1% regret it.
  • 91% of those who voted Leave feel happy about their vote; 9% regret it


Non-voters would overwhelmingly back Remain

  • Of those who didn’t vote 80% said they would now do so. 67% would vote Remain, 13% would vote Leave.


Jobs are the priority for young voters

  • Protecting jobs and future employment opportunities is the top priority for Remain (76%) and Leave voters (64%). Second is no cuts to education: Remain 74%, Leave 42%. Both Leave (59%) and Remain (66%) voters expect that pledges of increased NHS funding are delivered.


Voters are split on migration

  • On keeping free movement of people, 71% of Remain voters want to keep it against just 17% of Leave voters who feel the same. By contrast, 61% of Leave voters want to prioritise controlling out borders against 12% of remain voters.


There is little optimism about the outcome of Brexit negotiations

  • Young people are fearful about the economy. The economy suffering was the fear most commonly cited (28%); followed by the debate around migration becoming xenophobic (26%); and losing current opportunities to travel and work across Europe (26%). These figures are broadly consistent across young Remain and Leave voters.
  • 13% think their prospects will change significantly or slightly for the better; 72% think they will change significantly or slightly for the worse


Young people overwhelmingly want to have a final say over the Brexit deal, with a majority backing a second referendum

  • 83% think they should have a say over the final Brexit deal. This is split between 58% who think this should be through a second referendum and 25% who think this should be through elected representatives in Parliament.


The majority of young people support a soft Brexit, though this is heavily split between Leave and Remain voters

  • 72% want a soft Brexit; 17% want a hard Brexit. Though there is a divide, with 64% of Leave voters opting for hard Brexit and 82% or Remain voters opting for soft Brexit.

‘Soft Brexit’ – where the UK retains a degree of access to the single market in return for giving some concessions to the EU in terms of immigration to the UK.

‘Hard Brexit’ – where the UK leaves the single market and gains full control over all aspects of immigration.


A huge majority of young people think the Government are engaging with young people badly

  • 5% think the Government are listening and engaging with young people well or very well; 72% think they are engaging badly or very badly. This is also broadly true of Leave voters: 44% think they are engaging badly or very badly; 13% think they are doing so well or very well.


Question? Speak to our youth expert Josephine Hansom.


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