Voters have drifted away from the binary ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ split over Brexit and instead now fall into three categories - helping the Tories enter “landslide territory” in the run up to the General Election, a leading pollster has found.
The 52-48 per cent divide that characterised last year’s EU referendum result has morphed into three groups, YouGov said: Hard Leavers, Re-Leavers and Hard Remainers.
45% of voters identified themselves as ‘Hard Leavers’ - those who backed Brexit in the referendum and now want to see it implemented.
But that figure is substantially bolstered by the 23% of people who identify as ‘Re-Leavers’ - having backed Remain in 2016 but subsequently changed their minds.
This leaves just 22% of voters who call themselves ‘Hard Remainers’ and believe Britain is better off in the Union.
The result, YouGov says, is that the pro-Brexit Conservatives are “fishing in a massive lake of voters with very little competition”.
Almost half of those who backed Brexit last year but voted for a party other than the Tories in 2015 are planning to support Theresa May at the General Election on June 8, the analysis found.
Ukip stands to lose the most from this migration, but Labour will lose a significant number of votes too.
Theresa May will also benefit from retaining 91% of people who voted for her party in 2015, despite opposing Brexit when the referendum was held.
Labour would struggle at the election, YouGov added, because it had been left “scrapping” with other parties for the 22% of Hard Remainers .
“Many see Labour as having a somewhat opaque stance on Brexit, which no doubt has contributed to the party losing 3% of its support among Re-Leavers,” an analysis of the poll said.
“This turn has made it more reliant on making gains with Hard Remainers, where they are competing against the Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru.”
The small pool of ‘Hard Remainers’ helps partially explain why the Lib Dems have failed to make the breakthroughs they were predicted to - even losing council seats in the local elections earlier this month.
Of the party, YouGov found: “While their post-referendum stance of a second referendum is designed to appeal to ‘the 48%’, the role of the ‘Re-Leavers’ means that it is instead trying to woo just 22% - the ‘Hard Remainer’ section of the electorate – where it too is competing for support among a range of other parties.”
The result? YouGov said the split between parties vying for the ‘Hard Remainer’ vote was “something that in the first past the post system only serves to make the Conservatives an even more formidable electoral machine”.
YouGov surveyed 5,249 people and conducted the fieldwork from 2-8 May.
The latest poll has Labour climbing to 32% of the vote, its highest point since the election campaign begun.
But the Conservatives are still managing a hefty lead of 47%, according to the survey published by Opinium on Saturday.