Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Research Note: The EU Constitution and the British Public: What The Polls Tell Us About the Campaign That Never Was

By Paul R. Baines and Mark Gill


In Switzerland and the USA, referendums are so ubiquitous that a highly diverse industry has spawned up around them (Bowler, Donovan, & Fernandez, 1996). They are now increasingly commonplace in the EU as it enlarges. Up until June 2005, Britons expected to be asked to consent or reject the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty in a national referendum but the French and Dutch no votes in their own referendums in May and June 2005 scuppered this and Britain and other EU countries paused for a period of reflection. The ‘non’ and ‘nee’ votes constituted public defiance of their governments’ appeal to accept the EU Constitution, indicating how far removed the French and Dutch political elites were from the public (see Parker, 2005). In this research note, we consider British public opinion on Europe and the Constitutional Treaty, providing a summary of the referendum process along five key themes as follows: A sceptical view of the Constitution: All polls showed that a majority of British people intended to vote ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’ in the referendum. A persuadable electorate: More detailed analysis highlights the crucial importance of those who had not made up their minds and how they might affect the outcome of the vote. A largely under-informed public: The lack of information about Europe that the British public possessed characterizes British opinion both towards the Constitution and Europe more generally. A country that sees itself distinct from Europe: Perceived distinctiveness is important to understanding British public opinion on Europe. An unimportant event: The referendum campaigns failed to capture the imagina

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1093/ijpor
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

Suggested articles


  1. (2005). Attitudes towards the EU Constitution. Data available from authors on request.
  2. (2005). Delors decries No camp for confusing local with EU issues”,
  3. (2005). Dutch find 20 reasons to reject EU treaty”,
  4. (2003). Electoral Commission (2003/4), Audit of Political Engagement Survey, London: Electoral Commission, available at: Eurobarometer
  5. (2004). Elite collusion and public defiance: Sweden’s Euro referendum in 2003”, West European Politics, doi
  6. (2005). EMU Entry and EU Constitution, available at:
  7. (2005). Explaining Labour’s Landslip, doi
  8. (2000). Introduction: the discipline and practice of qualitative research,
  9. (2004). Political Campaigning in Referendums: Framing the Referendum Issue, doi
  10. (1998). Positioning qualitative market research: reflections from theory and practice”, doi
  11. (1997). Reliability and Validity in Research Based on Tapes and Transcripts”.
  12. (2005). Report 64: Conducted October –
  13. (2005). Resounding no shocks European leaders”,
  14. (1978). Strategic windows”, doi
  15. (2004). The Referendum Battle, London: The Foreign Policy Centre (fieldwork for survey conducted among 1,063 GB adults,
  16. (1992). trends on most important issues facing
  17. (2005). When Europe Matters: The Impact of Political Information on Voting Behavior in EU Referendums”, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.