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Leave to Remain: Public opinion and the EU referendum

Within two years, the UK will have decided whether or not it wishes to remain a member of the European Union. Indeed, two years is the outer limit: the issue could be settled within a matter of months. Yet it is only in the chronological sense that the nation is any closer to making up its mind.

Recent polls suggest the country is closely divided on the referendum question. In this research we have tried to understand the spread of opinion – from Leave to Remain, and the many shades of indecision in between. We have explored what people think is at stake in the referendum, whether and why those things matter, and what could end up shifting opinion in one direction or another. (more…)

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

 

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…)

‘Well, You Did Ask… Why The UK Voted To Leave The EU’

My book on the EU referendum, ‘Well, You Did Ask… Why The UK Voted To Leave The EU’, is available now from Biteback Publishing.

‘Well, You Did Ask…’ draws on two years of research by Lord Ashcroft Polls. It explores what voters made of the issues, the campaigns, the personalities, the claims and counterclaims, and how they came to make the most momentous political decision of our time.

We look in detail at the differences in outlook between those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain – differences which will have a real bearing on the future of our politics. And as the country sets about negotiating a new relationship with Europe, it offers what I hope is a colourful and revealing look at what our continental neighbours think about Britain and the British.

To think clearly about what the referendum result means, we first need to understand how it came about. (more…)

Voters’ butterflies, the post-Brexit budget, and the Totnes Question: my final referendum focus groups

 

My final round of referendum focus groups, in St Austell and Bromley, found that if the two sides of the campaign are feeling the pressure of the tightening polls, they are not the only ones – the voters are nervous too: “I swing so much between the two. I have actually got butterflies;” “In most elections nothing really changes, but with this one you know in your gut that something big is going to happen. There are going to be major changes and that is quite frightening (more…)

Migration, TV debates, our “special status”, and the Money Saving Expert: my referendum focus groups in Cardiff

My penultimate round of focus groups with undecided voters took place in Cardiff, where many people’s perplexity over the decision at hand was not turning not into enlightenment but exasperation. Among the many words people used to describe the contest so far (“unreliable”, “unrealistic”, “uninformative”, “not that interesting”, “unnecessary”, “a quagmire”, “a lot of bullsh*t”), by far the most common was “confusing”.

The campaign “is not helping one bit. It’s just, ‘this is going to happen’, ‘no it’s not’.” (more…)

Tory wars, Clarkson, Corbyn, Sadiq & Dave, the TUC and immigration: my latest referendum focus groups

 

This week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Leamington and in Muswell Hill, North London, with only three weeks to go until the big day. “That will be the actual decision, will it?” It really will. “I don’t think it’s been highlighted that much, considering it’s such a big thing.” “In the paper I always see this ‘Bee-arr-exit’. What does it mean?”

Given the dearth of coverage, what arguments have people noticed from the Leave side? “The amount of money we pay into the EU. It’s a huge figure. If we leave we’ll be £30 billion or £300 billion better off (more…)

How the EU debate turned into CSI Brussels

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?

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

 

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

 

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…)