Turkey, migrants, the Euro-army, the price of freedom and the Neutrality Paradox: my referendum focus groups in Leeds

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Leeds, where people were doing their best to stay on top of events (“I’m not OCD about it but I like to know what’s going on”). Participants had noticed that recent news had been dominated by migration, including the rise in net migration to 333,000.

For some, this was worrying (“it’s scary when you see it written down”). Others thought it was surprisingly (more…)

How the EU debate turned into CSI Brussels

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in The Guardian

 

“Usually I’d say ‘What do the Tories want?’ and do the opposite. But you can’t even do that.” This complaint from an undecided voter in one of my recent focus groups sums up the frustration many people feel about the EU referendum campaign. For all that people grumble about partisan politics, the parties’ competing brands – their familiar character, principles, policies, personalities and history, in or out of office – help voters make decisions.

Without party brands to guide them, many voters feel at sea (more…)

Control v. risk: which will win out in the referendum debate?

Matter or not

By Lord Ashcroft

My latest five-thousand sample survey shows how the referendum campaign is developing, and sheds light on the competing themes of the two campaigns: Remain’s emphasis on the risks of Brexit, and Leave’s mantra ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’. Here is what we found:

 

1: Opinion remains divided, but the Leave vote is hardening

I asked respondents to place themselves on a sentiment scale, where zero meant they would definitely vote for Britain to remain in the EU, and one hundred meant they would definitely vote to leave (more…)

“Scaremongering”, Hitler, Boris (again), and the view from Scotland: referendum focus groups with 34 days to go

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

For this week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters Lord Ashcroft Polls visited Birmingham and, for a Scottish perspective, Glasgow. Here, the decision at hand seemed to most participants at least as important (but much, much less interesting) as the independence referendum nearly two years ago.

This was partly because the European issue was less emotive than Scottish independence: “It’s a bit anticlimactic in comparison. People were more passionate about the change in the Scottish referendum than they seem to be about the change if we leave the EU. This is a damp squib.” The 2014 vote really had led to new levels of civic engagement (“People on Facebook who used to put up videos of themselves lighting their farts are now talking about politics (more…)

World War Three, Spooks, Churchill, Boris, mortgages, ITV… referendum focus groups with 41 days to go

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s focus groups took place in Nottingham, Loughborough and Southampton. Our undecided referendum voters had noticed plenty of news, even if they were no closer to making up their minds. “Apparently if we leave the sky’s going to fall in and World War Three is going to break out.” “The Bank of England came out today and said there could be another recession.” “Dave and Boris are having a bit of a spat. I’m not sure they’re still pals.” “The out tour bus started today.” “I read hair dryers and kettles and pressure cookers would be nobbled by the EU if we stay. Now it’s personal! (more…)

Belfast and Brighton: referendum focus groups with 48 days to go

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s referendum focus groups took place in Brighton and, for a Northern Ireland perspective, Belfast and Newtownards. As always, participants had a range of backgrounds and political views; all said they intended to vote on 23 June but had not yet decided if they wanted the UK to leave or remain.

Having had Assembly elections to contend with, our Northern Ireland groups felt rather behind on the referendum debate (more…)

Referendum focus groups: 55 days to go

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

With eight weeks to go, the latest round of Lord Ashcroft Polls focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Newcastle, Gateshead and Stevenage.

President Obama’s visit was the week’s big news. Did anything stand out? “He saw Prince George in his dressing gown.” “I thought he was here for the Queen’s birthday.” Did he say anything about the referendum? “I know he mentioned it but I can’t remember what he said now.” So much for the game-changing moment (more…)

Referendum focus groups: 62 days to go

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

Over the next nine weeks Lord Ashcroft Polls will visit every region of the country to find out what undecided voters are thinking about the referendum, what they have noticed and what has passed them by, what they make of the latest claims and interventions, what they take seriously and what they dismiss, whether they are any closer to making up their minds and what is pushing them one way or the other. This week: Bury, Rossendale and Norwich.

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For the Remain camp, the week’s main event was the launch of the Treasury document claiming that households would be £4,300 a year worse off by 2030 if Britain left the European Union (more…)

Panama, Cameron and tax returns

By Lord Ashcroft

It is the received wisdom that the leaking of the Panama Papers triggered the Prime Minister’s worst week since he took office. From his personal point of view, that may well be true: having the media trying to dig into your family’s tax arrangements is not a pleasant experience, as I can attest. But politically, how much has really changed since open season was declared on the Camerons’ financial affairs?

As so often, it is worth remembering that most people have better things to do than follow the minutiae of political coverage. Nothing very important gets past the voters, but they have a knack of getting straight to the point. The Cameron tax story, then, boils down to three essential elements. (more…)

“We can live without Europe – there is the rest of the world out there”: Serbia & Switzerland

Djok and Fed

By Lord Ashcroft

For the concluding round of our Europe-wide research, Lord Ashcroft Polls has ventured outside the EU for two rather different perspectives. First, to Serbia, one of the five current candidate countries hoping to join the union: what are they expecting, and does it matter to them if Britain is still there when they arrive? And finally, Switzerland, whose per capita GDP is higher than that of every EU country except Luxembourg: are they happy outside, and what would they advise British voters to do in June? (more…)