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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…)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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…)

‘You Should Hear What They Say About You’ – what our European neighbours think of Britain and the EU

David Cameron is in Brussels to finalise his renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership terms. Many voters would never be persuaded to stay whatever he came back with, but as my recent research found, some undecideds could be swayed if the PM convinced them he had won a good deal.

But the question of Britain’s place in the EU is about more than the precise restrictions to benefits for new migrants, or any commitment to cut back on excessive business regulations. My new polling among more than 28,000 voters throughout Europe helps to explain why.

Most European voters want the UK to stay in the EU. This is particularly true in Ireland, our closest neighbour, of old allies like Malta and Portugal, and in new accession countries like Lithuania and Romania (more…)

What kind of referendum voter are you?

 

My referendum polling has found seven different kinds of voter, from those who are sure they’ll vote to leave to those who are sure we should remain.

A quarter of us are Nothing to Lose voters, who think Britain is on the wrong track, are worried about immigration, and think we should definitely go.

One in seven are in the Global Britain group – who are optimistic for the UK, believe staying in the EU is a bigger risk than leaving, and think we’d do better in the global economy outside the EU.

One in five are Hard-Pressed Undecideds, who worry about their own prospects but are not sure whether problems like immigration will be dealt with better inside or outside the EU.

One in seven are in the Listen to DC group – they’re undecided how to vote but think leaving sounds like a bigger risk than staying, and could be persuaded by a strong lead from the PM.

One in eight of us are in the If It Ain’t Broke group – believing we won’t be able to solve problems like immigration whether we’re in or out, so might as well avoid the risk of changing.

Just over one in ten are in the I’m Alright Jacques group – they’re happy with life, optimistic for Britain, positive about immigration, and think leaving would be too big a risk.

The remaining tenth of the population are Citizens Of The World – the most committed to staying in the EU, they value free movement and having human rights guaranteed by Europe.

 

What kind of referendum voter are you? Take our quick survey to find out.

Brexit? A view from “New Europe”

Earlier this month I published my latest research on how British voters are coming to terms with the issues in the EU referendum. There will be plenty more of that to follow. But to add an extra dimension, we decided to peer through the other end of the telescope and find out how our debate looks from elsewhere in Europe – how people in other member states see Britain’s attitude to the EU, what they think about some of the questions British voters are grappling with, what they make of David Cameron’s negotiating demands and, frankly, whether they care if we stay or go. (more…)