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Brexit: 72% of Northern Ireland’s 16-year-olds would vote ‘remain’, survey reveals

By Sue Doherty

The vast majority of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland oppose Brexit, according to a new survey from the British Council.

The survey found that if Northern Ireland’s 16-year-olds had the opportunity to vote, most would be in favour of the UK remaining part of the EU, with almost three quarters assuming that the UK’s decision to leave the EU would be personally damaging to them. 

The research, commissioned by the British Council and carried out by ARK through their annual Young Life and Times (YLT) survey, involved 1,009 young people from across Northern Ireland.

Overall, 72% respondents said they would vote for the UK to remain within the EU, 13% said they would vote for the UK to leave,  and 11% said they did not know how they would vote.

Over two-thirds of those questioned felt an EU-exit would leave them worse off, with only 14% of respondents thinking they would be better off.

Out of these, Catholics and those identifying themselves as Irish were significantly more in favour of remaining in the EU, and more likely than Protestants or those who identify as British, to think that the EU exit will leave them worse off.

Respondents who identified themselves as British were much more likely to say they would probably or definitely be better outside the EU, however still fewer than one in three of these 16 year olds (23%) thought so. Those who identified as British were almost ten times as likely as those identifying as Irish to say they would vote to leave the EU.

The ambition to study, learn or work outside the UK was much stronger among those who would have voted to remain in the EU and who felt they will be personally worse-off after the Brexit vote.  This is especially true of respondents who considered themselves well-off, with 60% considering working abroad, compared to only 32% of those from not-well off families who thought they would gain from Brexit and also wanted to work outside the UK.

Ambitions to study, learn and work outside the UK were weaker among 2016 respondents than respondents from one year earlier.

Same-sex attracted respondents (80%) were more likely to say than opposite-sex attracted respondents (67%) that they thought they would personally be worse off outside the EU.

Dr Dirk Schubotz, YLT Director, said: “These study findings are interesting and relate well to previous survey research in which we asked 16-year olds whether they intended to leave Northern Ireland and whether they thought they would come back.

"The British Council support provided us with an opportunity to explore young people’s appetite for international experiences and their desire to learn other languages for this in much more detail.”

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