Who do the public think is on the side of 'the British Establishment'?

New Ipsos MORI research shows who the public think is on the side of ‘the British Establishment’ depends on how you voted in the 2016 EU referendum.

The author(s)

  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
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Leave voters are more likely to think that Brexit supporting politicians are ‘on the side of the British people’ and that Remain MPs, Labour, the Lib Dems and judges are on the side of ‘the British Establishment’. But Remain voters think the opposite

New research from Ipsos MORI shows that less than one in five (17%) trust the ‘British Establishment’ to put the needs of the nation first when it comes to Brexit, and that when asked whether 16 different politicians and institutions were more on the side of the British Establishment or more on the side of the British people, most are more likely to be seen as more on the side of the British Establishment than the British people (although many also answered either ‘both equally’ or ‘neither’).  Analysis of these findings, from an online poll of adults aged 18-75, also reveals a clear difference between Leave and Remain voters:

  • Leave voters are particularly likely to think that MPs who want to remain in the EU (54%), Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson (46%), judges (45%), the Liberal Democrat party (43%), the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn (both 39%) are ‘more on the side of the British Establishment’.
  • Yet, Remain voters think the opposite, considering the Conservative Party (55%), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (51%), MPs who want to leave the EU without a deal (46%), Nigel Farage (41%) and the Brexit Party (40%) as ‘more on the side of the British Establishment’.

Q. Do you consider the following individuals or organisations to be more on the side of the British people or more on the side of the British Establishment?

  All GB adults aged 18-75 Remain voters Leave voters
Top 5 scores for ‘more on the side of the British Establishment’

1) The Conservative Party (42%)
2) Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (36%)
3) MPs who want to remain in the EU (35%)
4) Judges (32%)
5) MPs who want to leave the EU without a deal (31%)

1) Conservative Party (55%)
2) Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (51%)
3) MPs who want to leave the EU without a deal (46%)
4) Nigel Farage (41%)
5) Brexit Party (40%)

 

1) MPs who want to remain in the EU (54%)
2) Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson (46%)
3) Judges (45%)
4) Liberal Democrat party (43%)
5) Labour Party / Jeremy Corbyn (39%)

Top 5 scores for ‘more on the side of the British people’

1) Brexit party (31%)
2) MPs who want to leave the EU with a deal (30%)
3) Nigel Farage (29%)
4) MPs who want to leave the EU without a deal (28%)
5) Labour Party (26%)

1) MPs who want to remain in the EU (41%)
2) The Labour Party (40%)
3) Jeremy Corbyn (37%)
4) Jo Swinson (36%)
5) Lib Dems (36%)

1) Brexit Party (51%)
2) Nigel Farage (47%)
3) MPs who want to leave the EU without a deal (46%)
4) Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (43%)
5) MPs who want to leave the EU with a deal (32%)

 

On the side of the people or "The British Establishment"? Ipsos MORI

Other findings:

  • Among British adults overall, the Conservative Party (by 42% to 15%) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (by 36% to 25%) are more likely to be seen as more on the side of the British Establishment than on the side of the British people, but so too are MPs who want to remain in the EU (by 35% to 23%).
  • The Queen is seen as ‘more on the side of the British Establishment’ by one in five (20%) but ‘more on the side of the British people’ by 21%. 19% say ‘both equally’, 21% ‘neither’ and 14% ‘don’t know’. Remain voters (25%) are more likely to see the Queen as ‘more on the side of the British Establishment’ than Leave voters (16%).
  • Other professions included in the poll tended to be seen as more on the side of the British Establishment than the British people, including newspaper journalists (by 23% to 11%), television journalists (by 23% to 12%), the civil service (by 30% to 13%) and judges (by 32% to 13%).  Again, though, many also said they were on the side of both equally, on the sides of neither, or did not know. 

The poll also asked how trusted was the British Establishment to put the interests of the British people above their own interests in general and in the context of Brexit:

  • 18% said that the British Establishment puts the interest of the nation above their own interests ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’, 32% said ‘only some of the time’ and 35% said ‘almost never’.
  • Thinking specifically about the UK’s exit from the EU, 17% said that the British Establishment puts the needs of the British people above its own interest ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’, 26% said ‘only some of the time’ and 43% said ‘almost never’.

The poll also reveals signs of Labour supporters warming to Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit, although the public are still generally more satisfied with Boris Johnson’s approach overall.

  • 23% are satisfied with Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and 64% are dissatisfied. His net rating stands at -41 but this has improved from -55 in August. This improvement in his ratings appears to be driven by Labour voters from 2017, his net rating has increased from    -27 to -3 since August with this group (42% now satisfied and 45% dissatisfied).
  • In contrast, 36% are satisfied with Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit, 54% are dissatisfied. His net rating of -18 is at similar levels to those recorded in August (-15). Although his net rating is in negative territory, it is significantly better than Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s.

Commenting on the findings, Ipsos MORI Research Director Keiran Pedley said,

In public opinion terms there is clearly political mileage in attacking the ‘British Establishment’. However, politicians that do so should bear in mind that ‘the Establishment’ means different things to different people. It is clear from our research that Leave and Remain voters have very different views on who is on the side of the British Establishment and who is on the side of the British people, so any General Election framed in those terms is likely to have a highly unpredictable outcome.

Technical Note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,080 adults aged 18-75 across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted online: 27th – 30th September 2019.  Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)

  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs

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