Given an in-out referendum on EU membership tomorrow, 50% would vote “out” against 33% “in” and 17% who would not vote either way, according to the poll.
The findings, which are likely to spark alarm in pro-European circles, suggest that anti-Brussels sentiment is sweeping through the British public, the Financial Times reported on Monday (18 February).
In a landmark speech, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum in 2017.
The promise of a plebiscite is very popular with the electorate, with 50% supporting the decision and only 21% opposing it.
It would be the first national referendum on Europe since 1975 when Harold Wilson, the Labour prime minister, put membership of the European Economic Community to the public.
During the speech, Cameron also said that he would be able to convince the public of the merits of staying in the EU so long as he can renegotiate the relationship.
However, of those who would vote “out”, only 12 % said they would “definitely” change their minds if there were a successful renegotiation. Another 47% said “yes, possibly” to the idea that they could alter their vote. But 41% f those wanting Britain to leave would definitely not change their point of view.
Some have already thrown their weight behind a “yes” campaign if a vote occurs in 2017, with the unions and CBI employers’ group signalling that they would join the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders in doing so.
Even if concerned about the economic situation, only 31% believe the UK’s economy would be weaker outside the EU, while 34% think the UK does not benefit from EU membership.
Harris found that voters ranked the EU at only 14th in a list of 15 priorities for the UK, with healthcare, education and economic growth in the first three slots.
The Harris poll of 2,114 adults was conducted after Cameron's speech, from 29 January to 6 February.