Men and middle-aged most sure of Brexit implications

New analysis of NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey published today shows considerable uncertainty about the likely implications of Britain leaving the European Union, but those who are interested in politics, the middle-aged and men are most likely to feel sure about what will happen.

Seven in ten people (69%) say that they feel unsure about what will happen should Britain leave the EU, compared with three in ten (29%) saying they feel sure. However there are some significant differences across society.

  • NatCen finds that young people are the least certain about what will happen should Britain leave the EU: only 19% of people aged 18-34 feel sure, compared with 38% of people aged 45-54.
  • Women are more likely than men to say they are unsure; only 21% of women feel sure about the implications of Brexit compared with 37% of men.
  • 41% of those with a great deal of interest in politics say they feel sure about what will happen, more than twice as many as those with no interest in politics (20%).

Alongside the report, NatCen has launched a data visualisation tool funded by the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe programme, allowing the public to explore how different people in society see the EU and what they think will happen should we vote to leave.

To explore the data, follow this link.

What will happen if we leave the EU?

The report reveals that significant minorities remain unconvinced by some of the key campaigning messages from both sides of the EU debate, with proportions ranging from 31% to 46% saying that leaving the EU would make no difference to a range of key issues:

  • Over half (57%) of the British public believe that immigration would be lower if Britain were to leave the EU, an argument favoured by the Leave campaign. However, 31% believe it would be around the same as it is now.
  • Two in five (40%) believe that Britain’s economy would be worse off if it left the EU, as put forward by the Remain campaign, although 31% say it would not be much different and 24% think it will be better.
  • Almost half say that Brexit would not make much difference to Britain’s influence in the world (44%) or levels of unemployment (46%).

The report also shows that, as with the Scottish Independence Referendum, those who are uncertain about the impacts of change are more likely to favour the status quo. Indeed, the more sure people feel about the implications of Britain’s exit from the EU, the more likely they are to favour Britain leaving the EU: 47% of those who say they are “sure” of what would happen would prefer Britain to leave the EU, compared to 22% of those who are “unsure”.

Elizabeth Clery, Research Director at NatCen Social Research said:

“The findings published today show that there is a real sense of uncertainty surrounding the potential implications of Britain leaving the EU – particularly among young people, women and those with little interest in politics. This could prove critical, as our data suggests that people who are unsure of the outcome of Brexit are more likely to vote to keep the status quo. With a month to go, it seems both sides have a lot of work to do to convince the public, and those with fewer educational qualifications and little interest in politics in particular, that the outcome of the Referendum would make a difference to the lives of British people. It remains to be seen how the public’s expectations for Brexit will inform their voting behaviour in one month’s time.”


For more information or a copy of the report contact Sophie Brown:, 020 7549 9550 or 07734 960 069 or Leigh Marshall:, 0207 549 8506 or 07828 031850.


  1. NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.
  2. Sample and approach – The 2015 British Social Attitudes survey consisted of 4,328 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults aged 18 plus in Britain. This represented a response rate of 51%. Interviewing was carried out between 4th July and 2nd November 2015. Addresses are selected at random and visited by one of NatCen Social Research’s interviewers. A random quarter, amounting to 1,105 people (954 for self-completion questions), of the sample were asked the questions about the European Union.
  3. The UK in a Changing Europe – – promotes independent, rigorous, high-quality academic research into the complex and ever changing relationship between the UK and the European Union. We provide an authoritative, non-partisan and impartial reference point for those looking for information, insights and analysis on UK-EU relations.
  4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.