Collapse in support for leaving EU in member states since Brexit, new data shows

Survey confirms trend in politics that has seen eurosceptic political forces moderate positions

There has been a stark drop in support for leaving the European Union in member states across the continent in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, new data shows.

In a European Social Survey, respondents were asked how they would vote in a hypothetical referendum on whether their country should remain in the EU, first in 2016-2017 and again in 2020-2022.

Support for leaving the EU fell in every member state for which results are available across that time period, led by a drop of 11.8 percentage points in Finland, 10 percentage points in Slovenia, 8.8 in Austria, and 8.6 in Portugal. In the Netherlands the proportion of those saying they would vote to leave the EU fell by 8.4 percentage points in the period, while in Italy it dropped by 8.3 and in France 7.6, according to the data provided to The Irish Times by the European Social Survey, which has not been previously reported.

The results appear to confirm a trend in politics across the continent that has seen eurosceptic political forces moderate their positions to move away from demands to leave the EU since Britain held its 2016 referendum on the issue.


Eurosceptic parties in countries including France, Italy and the Netherlands have dropped calls for referendums on EU membership or to leave the euro currency area, instead advocating for the union to reform.

This happened during years in which Britain was mired in difficult negotiations regarding its exit from the union that underlined the complexity of leaving, while the country faced political turbulence and economic headwinds blamed partly on the disruption of its relationship with its biggest trading partner.

Results for Ireland were not yet available. However in the 2018-2019 survey, support for remaining in the EU in Ireland stood at 89.1 per cent, while support for leaving was at 5.6 per cent.

The proportion of respondents who said they would vote to remain in the EU rose by 14.8 percentage points in Finland, 11.2 in the Netherlands, 10.5 in Slovenia, 9.7 in Czechia, 8.2 in Hungary, 8.1 in Portugal, 7.5 in Italy, and 6.7 in France.

There was not a rise in remain support in every country however. There was a drop of 5.1 percentage points for remain in Germany, 3.4 in Poland, 1.7 in Spain and 0.4 in Sweden. Rather than backing leave, respondents in these countries switched to giving alternative answers, such as that they didn’t know or would not vote.

The results emerged in the latest edition of the European Social Survey, an academic research project headquartered at City, University of London, which has polled tens of thousands of people on attitudes and behaviours in national surveys in 30 countries across Europe since 2001.

Respondents were asked the question: “Imagine there were a referendum in [your country] tomorrow about membership of the European Union. Would you vote for [your country] to remain a member of the European Union or to leave the European Union?”

Results were somewhat delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and surveys in Austria, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Spain switched to self-completion rather than face-to-face interviews in the 2020-2022 period.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times