Voters on both sides of the Brexit divide believe that violence against MPs and members of the public is a “price worth paying” to secure their favoured outcome, a new study has found.
A majority of both Leave and Remain voters would be happy to accept attacks on politicians and violent protests in which members of the public are badly injured if it meant they got Brexit outcome they want, according to a new polls.
Researchers said they were “genuinely shocked” by the findings, which come amid concerns about threats against MPs.
The YouGov surveys found that 71 per cent of Leave voters in England, 60 per cent in Scotland and 70 per cent in Wales think violence against MPs would be a ”price worth paying” to deliver Brexit.
The figures are only slightly lower for Remain supporters, with 58 per cent of pro-EU voters in England, 53 per cent in Scotland and 56 per cent in Wales saying that politicians being attacked would be worth it Britain remained in the EU.
Voters would also be happy to accept members of the public being badly injured in protests if it meant they got their way on Brexit.
Among Leave voters, 69 per cent in England, 62 per cent in Scotland and 70 per cent in Wales think civilians being hurt would be a “price worth paying” for Brexit.
While Remain voters are slightly less willing to accept violence, 57 per cent in England, 56 per cent in Scotland and 57 per cent in Wales would still rather people were badly injured than Britain left the EU.
Bizarrely, around one in 20 voters said they wanted civilians to be injured in protests regardless of their views on Brexit.
The polls were conducted as part of the Future of England survey, which is carried out annually by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Edinburgh.
They also revealed a widespread belief that Brexit will trigger the break up of the UK. Fifty-two per cent of voters in England, 61 per cent in Scotland and 47 per cent in Wales think this is a likely outcome.
However, a majority of both Leave and Remain voters in all three nations polled believe that the break-up of the country would be worth it to get the Brexit outcome they want.
A majority of voters in all three nations also think Brexit will make the UK “substantially poorer”, although at least three-quarters of Leave voters in all three nations think it would be worth it to leave the EU.
Professor Ailsa Henderson of the University of Edinburgh, co-director of the study, said: “These findings demonstrate that Brexit is putting the union under considerable strain regardless of whether we stay or go. Both sides are prepared to fundamentally rewrite the rules of politics as we know it to get what they want. Staying in the EU will likely decrease faith in the union. Brexit could well change its borders.
“Individuals might profess an attachment to the union, but Brexit has revealed most in Britain to be ambivalent unionists who now see it as expendable to get their own way on Brexit. Because this holds for both Leave and Remain voters, it confirms just how much the Brexit debate has polarised the electorates in Britain. These findings show that polarisation is reshaping how we argue with one another, and what we argue about, but could reshape the union as well.”
Her co-director, Professor Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University, added: “It’s not often that one finds oneself shaken by research findings, but in this case it’s hard to not be genuinely shocked – not only by the fact that so many think that violence is a likely consequence of Brexit, but that so many on either side of the Brexit divide seem to think that such events might be ‘worth it’ in order to secure their preferred outcome.
“Given that we appear to be on the brink of another general election in which further polarisation could be a deliberate campaign strategy for some parties, these findings should give all of us pause for thought and underline the importance of responsible and measured debate.”
YouGov surveyed 1,594 people in England, 1,503 in Wales and 1,006 in Scotland between 27 September and 3 October.