Our latest poll suggests that public opinion remains anti EMU, and that there has been no significant pro-EMU dividend from the UK's EU Presidency. The chances of an EMU referendum in the next year or two remain low.
Apart from aiming to shift public opinion, the government will need to address the tricky long-term problem of managing sterling to an acceptable EMU entry level, and preventing excess currency volatility. There are no easy solutions to this problem.
Base rates are likely to stay on hold at the upcoming monetary meeting. With the economy slowing, the authorities will await clarification of the latest earnings data. Provided that earnings slow next month, as we expect, fears of rate hikes will vanish.
Q If there were a referendum now on whether Britain should be part of a single European currency, how would you vote?
|In Favour (A)||Against (B)||Don't Know||Balance (A-B)|
EMU Sentiment Remains Stalled
The UK's EU presidency and the official launch of the single currency do not appear to have created a dividend of a pro-EMU shift in public opinion. Our latest EMU poll suggests that public opinion remains anti EMU, with little change from the March readings. On a simple "How would you vote" question, the balance of opinion against joining EMU has edged down from 25% in March to 23% now. The balance of opinion against EMU entry remains below the October 1997 level (just before the government's statement of intent to join EMU at some stage), but clearly above the 19% low seen in January — in the pro-EMU aftermath of that statement.
Balance of opinion in favour of EMU membership, Oct 97-May 98
|Sample Size||Oct 1997||Nov 1997||Jan 1998||Mar 1998||May 1998||Change Oct 97-May 98|
|± %||± %||± %||± %||± %||± %|
|Other/Would not Say||685||-24||-32||-22||-27||-32||-8|
|Daily Newspaper Readership|
EMU Scepticism Strongest Among Women and Readers of Tabloid Press ...
As before, Labour voters are far less hostile to EMU than Conservatives, although there has been a slight drop in anti-EMU sentiment among the latter group. Women remain more anti EMU than men. Low income groups (the C2 and DE social groups) and readers of the tabloid press are more anti EMU than the high income ABs and readers of the quality press. Among the readers of the high-selling Sun newspaper, the balance against EMU was 47% in May — the most negative rating for any national paper.
... and No Further Gain Among Groups Where EMU Sentiment Rose Last November
Between October and November last year, there was a marked rise in pro-EMU sentiment among Labour voters, the 35-54 year age group and the AB social group. This probably reflected the Government's late-October statement of intent to join EMU and, for these groups, awareness of the UK's relatively high interest rates and pro- EMU opinion among business leaders. However, pro-EMU sentiment among these groups has been little changed — and worsened slightly for the ABs — since then. Sentiment remains volatile in the under 24 age group, perhaps because views are less deeply held, whereas the over 55 year age group remains firmly anti EMU.
Similar Message Allowing for Government's Pro-EMU Line
Our second question, which assesses sentiment in the context of a strong pro-EMU lead from the government, also shows little change from March. This kind of question gave a more accurate guide to the actual vote in the 1975 Common Market referendum than the simple "how will you vote" question (although a longer history is available for the first question as a guide to trends). The gap between the two questions has stayed around 10% in recent surveys, with an above-average gap for Labour voters, women and the under 24 year age group. Nevertheless, even on this measure, sentiment among Labour voters is only marginally pro EMU.
Q If the Government Were to Strongly Urge That Britain Should Be Part of a Single European Currency, How Would You Vote?
|Balance of Opinion|
|November 97||January 98||March 98||May 98|
|Balances By Voting Intentions|
|Don't Know / Refused||-24||-14||-17||-24|
Poll Readings Suggest Early EMU Referendum Remains Too Risky ...
With such poll ratings, the odds of an EMU referendum in the next year or two remain low. A strong pro-EMU line from the government and hints of an early referendum would risk either (1) losing the referendum; (2) alienating voters by seeming to downplay issues such as health and education — on which Labour has clear and unmet manifesto pledges; or (3) alienating the largely anti-EMU press.
... and Government Likely to Stick With Slow-Burn Strategy ...
As a result, the government is likely to stick with its gradualist strategy, hoping that EMU's launch, and preparations for handling the euro in UK firms, will gradually cut hostility to EMU entry. Nevertheless, unless pro-EMU sentiment rises as the next general election nears, then at some stage the government will have to either try to shift public opinion or to downplay its own EMU aims. Europe consistently ranks as one of the "top five voter concerns", and Labour will probably not want to fight the next election on a pro-EMU platform if public opinion remains anti.
... Although Shift to PR Voting System Would Cut Risks To Labour Of A Pro-EMU Stance
One wild card is the chance of a shift to a proportional representation (PR) voting system, particularly alternate vote (AV), before the next general election . A shift to a full PR system (such as the additional member system) is not possible before the next election because it would need lengthy changes to parliamentary constituencies. However, a shift to AV is possible. Under AV, the Liberals (who are also pro-EMU) would gain more parliamentary seats, at the expense of the Conservatives. By making it harder for the Conservatives to regain power, an AV system would cut downside risks for Labour of facing the next election with a pro-EMU line.
The March figures use a sample of 2,033 people aged 16 years and over and the survey was done between 14 and 19 May. A national representative sample was used and the survey was carried out by face-to-face interviews in the respondent's home. The surveys before October 1997 are weighted to be representative of people aged 18 years and over in Great Britain. Note: Sample sizes are for May 1998, but are similar for earlier results. Numbers may not sum because of rounding.
Double-digit lead for SNP but a majority of the public think Michael Matheson should resign
6 in 10 people in Scotland think Michael Matheson should resign as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care over the issue of his data roaming bill, according to the latest Ipsos Scottish Political Monitor in partnership with STV News.