Do people just like referendums?

Do people just like referendums?

After David Cameron promised an in/out referendum on Britain?s EU membership if the Conservatives win the next general election, the topic has been in the news quite a lot with the question being whether Labour will match it with a referendum promise of their own.

It certainly seems like a popular idea with 67% of likely voters saying there should be a referendum on the UK?s membership of the European Union while just 13% say there shouldn?t be.

But although this may be taken as evidence of pent up demand, the public are also in favour of a referendum on whether the UK should bring back capital punishment (56% in favour, 28% opposed) and, more narrowly, on whether same-sex marriage should be legal in the UK (40% in favour, 31% opposed).

In fact, of the issues we asked about, the only referendum ideas which didn?t clearly have more support than opposition were on whether the rest of the UK should be able to vote on whether Scotland should become independent (36% in favour, 36% opposed) and whether Prince Charles or Prince William should succeed the Queen when the time comes (20% in favour, 54% opposed).

While the latter shows that the public have a sound understanding of the principles of monarchy, the former is actually supported by 36% of those in England and Wales and opposed by 34% while being opposed by 55% to 31% in Scotland.

While Europe is very much in the headlines at the moment, these results suggest that rather than there being pent up demand for a referendum, voters simply like the idea of referendums on controversial topics. Hardly surprising when you consider that just 26% say they trust their local MP to represent their views in Parliament.