Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted against in Parliament once again. With rising public concerns around a no-deal Brexit, the proposal of a citizens’ assembly is an idea that has been floated as a solution to break the current Brexit deadlock.
The RSA commissioned Populus to undertake research on public opinion around a citizens’ assembly as part of their ‘Campaign for Deliberative Democracy’.
What is a citizens’ assembly?
A citizens’ assembly on Brexit would be a group of randomly selected and representative citizens. The group would meet at regular intervals, hear evidence from impartial experts, discuss and then put forward a series of recommendations on Brexit. The citizens’ assembly would be the vehicle through which our relationship with the EU would be re-formed.
25% of UK adults support the idea of a citizens’ assembly
The idea of a citizens’ assembly has had numerous high profile advocates, from Gordon Brown, Stella Creasy to The Guardian newspaper. However, amongst UK adults there is not a large appetite for a citizens’ assembly.
Support for a citizens’ assembly was slightly higher in under 45 year olds (31%). Those polled in Northern Ireland were among the most likely to support a citizens’ assembly on Brexit. Citizens in Northern Ireland are likely to be more aware of citizens’ assemblies as they would have been exposed to them through the National Citizens’ Assembly in the Irish Republic.
43% believe that a citizens’ assembly could betray the Leave vote from 2016
As a citizens’ assembly could make any recommendation, almost half of the population are aware that it could potentially lead to the UK not leaving the EU at all. This was higher amongst Leave voters at 67% believing that a citizens’ assembly could betray the Leave vote.
No option has a clear majority of support amongst the UK population
There was a lack of significant support for the idea of citizens’ assembly amongst UK adults, 38% reported being against the idea of it. This Populus research also assessed other options that have been discussed as routes to solve the current Brexit deadlock:
- 34% said they would prefer a second referendum to a citizens’ assembly
- 29% said they would prefer a general election to a citizens’ assembly
- 31% said they would prefer leaving the EU with no deal to a citizens assembly
It is evident that there is no clear winner amongst the current ideas around developing a Brexit solution. The RSA explores this research in line with the current misunderstandings around a citizens’ assembly in a new post on their website.
Populus interviewed a sample of 2082 UK adults aged 18+ online between 16 -17 January 2019. Of these, 910 were aged under 45 and 57 were located in Northern Ireland. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
See here for the polling tables.