Citizens' assembly on Brexit recruitment and participant survey 2017-2018

Renwick, Alan and Jennings, Will and McKee, Rebecca and Russell, Meg and Smith , Graham (2019). Citizens' assembly on Brexit recruitment and participant survey 2017-2018. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Service. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-853589

The process of leaving the EU presents the biggest set of decisions faced by the UK polity for decades. Given its prominence and importance, decision-making must satisfy two conditions. First, it should respect and respond to public opinion: both democratic principle and the need for public legitimacy demand this. Second, the process should be carefully considered: the options and their implications for all parts of society should be clearly understood and priorities carefully weighed. The proposed project is designed to advance these goals - and thereby to make a major and distinctive contribution to the Brexit process - by creating a Citizens' Assembly on Brexit. We will link the Assembly to ongoing work around Brexit in government and parliament and publicize its work and recommendations to the public at large. In so doing, the project will advance understanding of how democratic practice might best be furthered in general. There are dangers that the conditions for effective decision-making on Brexit might not be met. Voters have been asked whether they want Brexit, but not what form they want it to take. Parliament - the usual location for public scrutiny - feels hamstrung because it is known to contain a pro-Remain majority and so risks public anger. Many 'Remainers', still hoping Brexit can be stopped, are reluctant to engage constructively with the question of the form it should take. Some 'Leavers', worried that extended negotiations might create a risk of reversal, insist that matters are simpler than they are. Public debates are often polarized and distorted. The ideal response to these problems would be to create a deliberative process encompassing the whole electorate. But this is impossible, both financially and practicably. The closest approximation is a citizens' assembly: a body of citizens who are selected randomly (but with stratification) from the general population to represent the diversity of society and who meet over a period of time to learn about the issues, hear a wide range of perspectives on them, deliberate in depth, and reach conclusions. The project team combines expertise from academia and civil society, including members of the ESRC-funded Democracy Matters project, which ran two pilot citizens' assemblies in 2015 and went on to win the Political Studies Association's 2016 Democratic Innovation Award. We seek to build upon the expertise developed and lessons learnt by that project and the follow-on Better Referendum initiative, also ESRC-funded, to deliver a Citizens' Assembly on Brexit. We expect the Assembly to have 45 members who will be broadly representative of the UK population. Stratification will be used to provide the greatest possible representativeness in terms of criteria such as gender, age, place of residence, social class, and attitudes to Brexit. The Assembly will meet over two weekends. Members will learn about the options for Brexit, discuss their own perspectives, hear from a wide range of experts and campaigners, deliberate on what they have heard, and draw up recommendations. They will also be able to engage online between the weekends. The Assembly will deliver a report that will be widely circulated among policy-makers and commentators, launched at a high-profile event, and promoted through traditional and social media. The project will pursue two objectives. The first is to use the well-tested citizens' assembly model to deliver what is needed by Brexit negotiators, parliamentarians, and all engaged in the Brexit debate: a deep insight into informed public opinion on the form that Brexit should take. The second is to use this opportunity to examine two unanswered questions regarding citizens' assemblies: whether and how they can be used successfully in the context of existing intense and polarized debate; and whether and how a diverse and representative membership can be secured. The project is carefully designed to advance these objectives to the full.

Data description (abstract)

The data contains 6 of survey stages t0-T5. Surveys were designed to answer two questions regarding citizens' assemblies: (1) whether and how they can be used successfully in the context of existing intense and polarized debate; and (2) whether and how a diverse and representative membership can be secured. We surveyed 5,000 people to recruit participants for the Citizens' Assembly then we resurveyed the participants of the assembly, the control group and those who we invited but could not / declined to attend. The first survey was conducted online through the polling company ICM further surveyed were run in house at UCL either on paper at the assemblies or through google forms.

Data creators:
Creator Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Renwick Alan University College London
Jennings Will University of Southampton
McKee Rebecca University College London
Russell Meg University College London
Smith Graham University of Westminster
Sponsors: Economic and Social Research Council
Grant reference: ES/R000867/1
Topic classification: Politics
Social stratification and groupings
Keywords: citizen participation, Brexit, public opinion
Project title: Citizens' Assembly on Brexit
Grant holders: Alan Renwick, Meg Russell, Graham Smith
Project dates:
1 April 201730 June 2018
Date published: 30 May 2019 16:09
Last modified: 30 May 2019 16:09

Available Files




data downloads and page views since this item was published

View more statistics


Edit item (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item