A “generation gap” has opened up in British attitudes to Europe, with young people who have grown up with the freedom of movement reluctant to give up the right to pursue career opportunities in other EU countries.
Younger voters are also more worried that politicians’ aggressive language towards eastern European migrants could stoke up community tensions, according to the poll for the British Future think-tank. Sunder Katwala, its director, said the survey showed younger voters viewed free movement within the EU as a “two-way street”. He added: “While some older Britons might want to pull up the drawbridge to stop more people getting in, their grandchildren are worried that this could stop them getting out to find work.”
The poll by ICM Research, which will be published this week, found that 41 per cent of adults aged between 18 and 24 were either firmly in favour of EU membership or leaning towards support, against 32 per cent who took the opposite view – a pro-EU gap (after rounding) of eight points. By contrast, the survey found an anti-EU majority of 25 points among the over-65s, with 60 per cent strongly against continued membership or leaning towards that stance, and only 35 per cent taking the opposite position. (…). Fear about what impact withdrawal from the EU will have on jobs appears to be the key reason for the gulf between age groups. Asked what risks would influence their decision in a referendum, 82 per cent of young voters named the effect on the economy and employment, compared with 62 per cent of over-65s. The gap was even more striking among voters who raised concerns about Britons’ potential loss of the right to work in the EU, with 77 per cent of under-25s citing it as a risk, against 49 per cent of older voters.
More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of those aged 18 to 24 are worried about losing EU inward funding for disadvantaged areas of the UK, versus 54 per cent of the 65-plus group who viewed this as a risk.
Younger people said they were concerned that the UK’s response to EU migration should not discriminate against newcomers, which is likely to reflect how this age group has been brought up in a much more multiracial society than their older relatives. By a majority of nearly eight to one (70 per cent to 9 per cent) they agreed with the statement: “People are worried that immigration from Romania and Bulgaria will put pressures on local public services and we need to manage that. But let’s not stir up tensions before they’ve even got here – we can deal with the issues without being prejudiced”. In contrast, the statement was supported by a majority of less than two to one among over-65s (56 per cent to 29 per cent).
“Our research found this is a more liberal generation… more relaxed about Europe and also keen to keep prejudice out of any debate about immigration,” Mr Katwala added (…). »
Nigel Morris – The Independant