A Cherwell survey this week has revealed that 80 per cent of Oxford students think that Britain should remain in the European Union (EU). Of the 777 students surveyed, 13 per cent of respondents expressed the opinion that Britain should leave the EU, whilst only seven per cent remain undecided.
The results represent a significant divergence from national polls. The latest online poll by YouGov for The Times found that 38 per cent of adults surveyed wanted to leave the EU, 37 wished to remain, and 25 per cent remained undecided or were not planning to vote.
Cherwell’s EU survey comes after Prime Minister David Cameron announced last week that the EU referendum would be held on Thursday 23rd June. Following the announcement, five senior Cabinet ministers, including Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith declared their intention to campaign for Britain to leave the EU. A sixth member of the Cabinet, Boris Johnson, also announced his decision to join the Leave campaign on Sunday.
Aside from the national campaigns, a number of university-based campaigns have recently launched in Oxford. In response to the survey, the Co-Chairs of Oxford Students for Europe (OSFE,) Eilidh Macfarlane and David Klemperer, told Cherwell, “We are delighted with the results of Cherwell’s s urvey, w hich r eflects t he strong support for EU membership that Oxford students have shown in their reactions to our campaigning.
“We hope that many more of the hundreds expressing a desire to remain in the European Union will get involved in this incredibly important campaign over the coming months, and that Oxford students will vote to remain in the EU by such a strong margin in June.”
Meanwhile Oliver Shore, a member of Oxford Students for Britain (OSFB), the ‘Leave’ campaign in Oxford, told Cherwell, “It looks like we have a bit of a mountain to climb on campus! But I feel confident that, over the next four months, we will be able to win round students to our cause, as we campaign in advance of this referendum.”
Shore added, “Happily, a large proportion of the country is on our side, with good reason, and I look forward to laying out the reasons why students have little to fear and much to gain by voting to leave the European Union. I’m sure that the students of Oxford will be more receptive to our case than the EU was to David Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’.”
Despite the Europhilic sentiment expressed by the majority of Oxford students in Cherwell’s survey, many students appeared sceptical of the concessions negotiated by Cameron last week, with only 24 per cent of respondents agreeing that the concessions will help Britain’s relationship with the EU. 42 per cent thought that the concessions would not help, while a significant proportion of students, 34 per cent, remain undecided.
Cherwell’s survey also asked students to select which issues surrounding the EU referendum were most important to them.
For students expressing a desire for Britain to remain in the EU, the two most important issues highlighted were the free movement of people and the economic implications for Britain, with over three quarters of respondents selecting these issues as important.
In contrast, for students who think that Britain should leave the EU, British sovereignty was found to be by far the most significant issue, with nearly 80 per cent of respondents selecting this issue. EU regulations and the free movement of people also registered as important for many of those students who want Britain to leave the EU.
Altair Brandon-Salmon, a first-year student at Wadham, told Cherwell, “It is disappointing to see that so many Oxford students have already made up their mind to vote to stay in the European Union, without perhaps understanding the manifold issues surrounding this profoundly un-democratic, bureaucratic, elitist, top-down institution.”
He added that it is “striking that issues of democratic accountability are not amongst the highest of priorities for university students, which seems to show a lack of understanding as to how the EU works.”