Public concern about Brexit rises further still, hitting a new record level

February's Issues Index shows a further rise in concern about Brexit even before the 12 March meaningful vote, with 71% of Britons naming the country’s departure from the European Union as a big issue facing the country.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs
  • Michael Gibson Public Affairs
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  • Seventy-one per cent of the British public say Brexit is the biggest issue facing Britain – the highest level of concern for any issue since the economy at the 2010 General Election 
  • The proportion who mention crime, the environment and pollution, and a lack of faith in government and politicians as issues have all risen significantly since January
  • Concern about immigration falls to its lowest level since 2002 (15%)

February’s Issues Index shows a further rise in concern about Brexit. When fieldwork was conducted in the first half of February, seven in ten Britons named the country’s departure from the European Union as a big issue facing the country (71%), an eight percentage-point rise from January. This is not only the highest level of concern about European issues recorded since the Issues Index began in 1974, but also the highest level of public concern about any issue since the 2010 General Election, when 71 per cent were worried about the economy. Brexit is the biggest issue across all subgroups.

We see a similar picture for the single biggest issue – 59 per cent name Brexit as the country’s single biggest concern, up from 54 per cent in January. This is the highest level of single-minded public concern recorded for at least two decades. There have only been two occasions over that period where any issue has approached this level: the first was May 2010, when 53 per cent named the economy as the single biggest issue, and the second was March 2003 – when, at the start of the invasion of Iraq, when 54% saw defence-related issues as the country’s single biggest concern. 

Beyond Brexit, the proportion who see immigration as an important issue for Britain has fallen by four percentage points to 15 per cent this month – the lowest level of concern about this topic since April 2002. This matches other polling which has revealed a trend of increasing positivity in the British view of immigration, even while concerns still remain.

Other concerns have risen: the proportion who mention crime as a worry is up four points to 21 per cent. Poverty and inequality is also mentioned as a worry by 21%, equalling the joint-highest score recorded for this issue since 1997. Fifteen per cent mention pollution and the environment as a worry, which is the highest level of concern about this topic since January 2007. 

The proportion who cite their lack of faith in politicians, politics and the government as a big issue for the country has risen to 14 per cent which is the highest recorded for this code since it was included in October 2016.

Issues Index February 2019 - top tenConcern about Brexit is high among all parts of the British population, however some groups stand out as being especially likely to worry. Eighty-four per cent of people from AB social grades name Brexit as a big issue for Britain, as do 82 per cent of Conservative party supporters and eight in ten Scottish residents (80%).

Ipsos MORI Issues Index February 2019 - Brexit concern dashboard

Technical note

Ipsos MORI's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,001 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. The answers are spontaneous responses, and participants are not prompted with any answers. 
Ipsos MORI's Capibus vehicle was used for this survey. Interviews were conducted face-to-face in-home between 1 and 12 February 2018 at 169 sampling points across Great Britain. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.


See more of Ipsos MORI's long-term political and social trends here.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs
  • Michael Gibson Public Affairs