Over on the YouGov website I’ve written a long piece looking at how the ground lies ahead of the European referendum campaign – what the breakdown of support and opposition currently is, how people perceive those who support and oppose Europe, how effective the arguments might be and how risky each option is currently seen. Read it here.

Meanwhile ICM put out their weekly tracking data on EU referendum voting intention today, their latest figures are REMAIN 44%, LEAVE 37%.


188 Responses to “Previewing the EU referendum battle”

1 2 3 4
  1. Wonder when or if the refugee problems will start to have a bigger impact in Europe and whether this will influence attitudes in UK. Europe governance looks rather chaotic and I am a firm EU supporter

  2. Hmm, looks interesting. The campaign will be a lot more interesting if there’s a serious prospect of either side winning.

  3. Santafemad,

    Yes, circumstances over the past 5 and a half years or so have been very favourable for the eurosceptics. One thing that this suggests is that if they can’t win this referendum, then they are unlikely (bar the problems with the EU getting even worse) to win at any time, especially given the attitudes of my generation on the issue.

  4. An excellent post AW, thanks. Your analysis is very similar to that of Professor Sara Hobolt of the LSE who gave a superb presentation on the EU referendum at a seminar run by The Constitution Unit at UCL, where I work, last week.

    The question of risk is very interesting indeed. In many referendums – this summer I have been compiling a database of referendum polling around the world since 1990 so I have become very familiar with them! – I would suggest that it is a perceived *lack* of risk that influences results as campaigns go on. This is especially true of many of the EU referendums held in western European countries, most of which have been on treaties. In a number of cases initial opinion was positive but as polling day approached ‘no’ (i.e. the status quo) started to surge. I expect the feeling that rejecting a treaty is a free hit on the EU with little tangible downside helped voters feel comfortable in voting the way they did.

    In the case of our in/out referendum people I think it is too early to draw many conclusions about where people will perceive the risk to lie. The way that exit is presented during the campaign will be very important. The leave side will, presumably, want to present a vision of exit that is free of risk but that will be hard to do if the government – who would need to implement the exit – aren’t clear about it themselves. The government – assuming they want to stay – would be advised not to provide this assistance to the leave side and instead to leave open all sorts of possibilities for what exit might look like.

    Overall my opinions have changed on the likely course of the campaign. I had been in the rather complacent we’ll remain, probably with 70%+ camp, but I’m not so sure now. I still think the perceived riskiness of leaving will cause remain to win out but I think it could be close.

  5. An excellent post AW, thanks. Your analysis is very similar to that of Professor Sara Hobolt of the LSE who gave a superb presentation on the EU referendum at a seminar run by The Constitution Unit at UCL, where I work, last week.

    The question of risk is very interesting indeed. In many referendums – this summer I have been compiling a database of referendum polling around the world since 1990 so I have become very familiar with them! – I would suggest that it is a perceived lack of risk that influences results as campaigns go on. This is especially true of many of the EU referendums held in western European countries, most of which have been on treaties. In a number of cases initial opinion was positive but as polling day approached ‘no’ (i.e. the status quo) started to surge. I expect the feeling that rejecting a treaty is a free hit with little tangible downside helped voters feel comfortable in voting the way they did.

    In the case of our in/out referendum people I think it is too early to draw many conclusions about where people will perceive the risk to lie. The way that exit is presented during the campaign will be very important. The leave side will, presumably, want to present a vision of exit that is free of risk but that will be hard to do if the government – who would need to implement the exit – aren’t clear about it themselves. The government – assuming they want to stay – would be advised not to provide this assistance to the leave side and instead to leave open all sorts of possibilities for what exit might look like.

    Overall my opinions have changed on the likely course of the campaign. I had been in the rather complacent we’ll remain, probably with 70%+ camp, but I’m not so sure now. I still think the perceived riskiness of leaving will cause remain to win out but I think it could be close.

  6. From AW article

    PARTY DIVISIONS

    “Referendum splits voters of all parties. UKIP are, predictably, the most united, though there are even a small number of pro-European UKIP supporters. The Liberal Democrats and Greens very heavily support staying. Labour and SNP voters strongly lean towards staying. Conservative supporters split down the middle, with very slightly more Tories leaning towards leaving”
    ________

    Interestingly almost a 3rd of SNP supporters would opt to leave the EU and out of the 6 main political parties the SNP are the 3rd most eurosceptic!!

    Food for thought!!

  7. “For those in favour of leaving, the arguments seen as most convincing were those around immigration and money currently spent on EU membership being better spent on services in Britain”
    _______

    Both are compelling reasons for leaving the EU. Why should we subsidize Polish potato pickers or Latvian carrot slicers over our own farming communities and I don’t even want to mention the immigration issue.

  8. @Allan Christie

    “Interestingly almost a 3rd of SNP supporters would opt to leave the EU and out of the 6 main political parties the SNP are the 3rd most eurosceptic!! Food for thought!!”

    It’s not that surprising Allan – the SNP is a bit like the Alcoholics Anonymous; lots of different people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs who are brought together because they happen to have an issue in common.

  9. Anarchists Unite

    While your choice of analogy is a little unflattering [1] you are correct that the SNP is a broader kirk on many issues than the remnants of the evangelical hordes that once constituted the Unionist, Labour and Liberal Parties in these northern climes.

    Looking at this month’s Survation Full Scottish poll, the LDs are the most Europhile (63% Remain, 18% Leave, 18% Undecided) – but their numbers are so minimal that pollsters should relegate them to the ranks of unimportant and irrelevant “Others”, like UKIP

    then Labour (56% Remain, 25% Leave, 19% Undecided)

    SNP (50% Remain, 33% Leave, 17% Undecided)

    leaving the Tories as the only party with a perfectly balanced position (39% Remain, 39% Leave, 23% Undecided)

    [1] To suggest that half of the Scots electorate have forsworn alcohol is a foul calumny, of which you should be thoroughly ashamed! :-)

  10. ANARCHISTS UNITE

    That’s true but when the campaign proper starts I just wonder how many within the SNP will opt to leave the EU? Will it grow in support or will it dwindle?

    The fact that NS has made leaving the EU a trigger for another indy vote if Scotland votes to stay while rUK votes to leave, which will no doubt be one of her campaign messages during the EU referendum might not be that persuasive to a large chunk of SNP supporters.

  11. Allan Christie

    “The fact that NS has made leaving the EU a trigger for another indy vote if Scotland votes to stay while rUK votes to leave”

    I do love “facts” which aren’t actually facts!

    It’s certainly been suggested as a potential trigger for indtyef2, but (as she has made clear) that would depend on whether such an indyref would be likely to result in a Yes victory.

    Governments call referendums when they think they will win, or when it will advance their cause, or when they don’t have a political choice about it.

    The only exception that I can think of was the Lib-Dems (in Government) demanding a referendum on AV that they didn’t really support themselves. But then, they have shown themselves to be singularly politically incompetent!

  12. OLDNAT

    Okay I stand corrected but I still don’t think Scotland remaining part of the EU is as strong as some in the SNP would had hoped but like I have said before, although I’m personally against remaining part of the EU I can see the benefits for Scotland remaining part of it due to geography and the rural nature of most of Scotland.

  13. Very good summary Anthony. I haven’t seen actual figures, but I would suggest that LEAVERS will be more likely to vote than the others, and not just because they are older and therefore wiser. They are more committed.

    G’night all

  14. Allan Christie

    If you look at the responses from the regions in the Survation poll, opposition to remaining in the EU is strongest in the North East and H&I.

    At least part of that will be concerns about the Common Fisheries Policy, and the realisation that Norway (while having to follow most EU rules) controls its own fishing grounds.

    Few political questions are as simple as partisans like to suggest, unless compromise positions are ruled out by the key players.

    That’s as true for the constitutional position of Scotland in the UK (the Federal/Devo Max preferred by , or seen as acceptable, by most Scots is off the table by diktat of Westminster) as it is for the European debate – where the EFTA option is largely being ignored.

  15. Pete B

    Being older (and therefore wiser) I’m allowed to stay up late and discuss grown up things. :-)

  16. The law of unintended consequences kicking in? The SNP campaign to stay in the EU whilst telling the 45% who want another Independence referendum that they may get one sooner in the event that they (along with enough others) vote to leave the EU!

  17. Jack Sheldon

    “The question of risk is very interesting indeed.”

    It is.

    I remember seeing an article in the New Scientist?/Scientific American? which (while by no means definitive) suggested that deterioration of the Prefrontal Cortex in older people reduces their ability to calculate risk – rather in the same way that, while it is being reprogrammed during adolescence, young people also find it hard to calculate risk.

    You may want to have a look at these aspects of developmental psychology in your analysis of risk as a factor in political decision making.

  18. Amber

    I don’t think you have quite worked out there is a fundamental flaw in your thesis there!

    It’s a wee bit like your post (quoting mine from a previous thread) about Edinburgh Council having funding problems too – as if that was of any relevance whatsoever to my original point that concerns about English local government funding were an English matter. The Guardian carried a story that the directly administered UK Gov cuts between 2010 and 2015 amounted to a 43% cut in real terms.

    The very different pattern (but still a small cut in Scottish local government funding) has been usefully analysed by SPICe –

    http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/92443.aspx

    Over the period 1999 to 2016, local government’s share of the Scottish Government budget has decreased from 36.2% to 32.2%. However, (once police and fire budgets are added back in for 2013-14 to 2015-16 to provide figures closer to a like for like basis), local government’s share has decreased by only 0.2% to 36.0%.
    ? From 1999-2000 to 2007-08, local government’s share decreased slightly from 36.2% to 35.9%, and from 2008-09 to 2015-16, local government’s share (if including police and fire) decreased from 37.2% to 36.0% (or to 32.2% if police and fire are not included).
    ? From 1999 to 2016, if police and fire is included, then the local government budget has grown by a very similar rate (+52.0%) to the Scottish Government DEL+NDRI (+52.5%).
    ? While from 1999-2000 to 2007-08, the local government budget (+58.5%) increased by 1.2 percentage points less than the Scottish Government DEL+NDRI (+59.7%); from 2008-09 to 2015-16 (including police and fire allocated to local government), the local government budget (-6.0%) decreased by 3.0 percentage points more than the Scottish Government DEL+NDRI (-3.0%).
    ? The Council Tax freeze has cost the Scottish Government £2,520 million since its inception in 2008-09 (to 2015-16). This funding is intended to compensate local authorities for a foregone annual rise in Council Tax. Estimates show that the money provided by the Government to freeze the council tax has resulted in local authorities receiving more income than they would have done by increasing rates by RPI. In total, over the six years to 2013-14, this has resulted in an estimated £164.9m extra going to local government as a result of the freeze

  19. This is going to be a very interesting battle!

  20. @Anarchists Unite

    “It’s not that surprising Allan – the SNP is a bit like the Alcoholics Anonymous; lots of different people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs who are brought together because they happen to have an issue in common.”

    Or a crowd in football stadium. Or a church congregation. Or a collection of shoppers in a supermarket.

    Like any group of people really. Can’t speak for the AA. Never been a member (of either club).

  21. Statgeek

    “Or a crowd in football stadium”

    Well, maybe not Ibrox – if you heard the chants from the Loyalists about the IRA faction that they seemed to think was prevalent among the douce folk in Perth!

  22. Here it is
    Farron has chosen to stay in the centre

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/23/tim-farron-lib-dems-coalition-tories-clegg

    I have to say I’m impressed, I expected him to drift into the comfort zone and rule out unpopular coalitions in the future. Of course the LDs will only start to be relevant again once/if they start winning seats again, but this at least shows they’re serious and aim to be more than a pressure group.

  23. @Oldnat

    Diversity at Ibrox? Hair or nae hair?

  24. @THE OTHER HOWARD
    “Good for you, on orgies it depends :-)”&
    ————
    Yep, you might have a point Howard: much depends on orgies…

  25. I find the 72% / 15% split among Green voters interesting.

    My own personal drift is towards leave, as is probably 50% of the local party I am part of.

    Perhaps we are just a funny old unrepresentative bunch, The proportions for the Greens are very similar to those of Labour and the Lib Dems, so perhaps the top level Green figures are based on the substantial numbers of recent joiners from other parties.

  26. The lib dems desperately need labour voters to hold their noses and tactically vote for them again in Tory / lib dem marginals. I’m not sure they are going the right way about this.

  27. Crazy strategy from the Lib Dems. After five years as a pig substitute and they think more of it would be a good thing. I agree that they need Labour tactical votes. Anti-Corbynite Labour would not want another Tory-led government either.

  28. The Lib Dem strategy baffles me, their main pitch is they really want to be in coalition. Most parties lay out their policies and try to get support for them, why waste any time at all talking about coalition five years out from a GE, makes no sense. The LibDems need to rediscover their raison d’etre and it has to be something more than coalition with anyone that will have them.

  29. @Old Nat

    Now I know you were once a Deputy Head, and therefore presumably the school disciplinarian, I respond to your posts with an irrational trepidation.

    Your comment about the Lib Dems PR referendum is a correct one. It really was the most bizarre of political moves, and ineptly handled.

    Which makes Farron’s tack to the centre quite reassuring. This was a political necessity, and it occurs to me that he can take his party in that direction in a way that Lamb could not. Lamb was, perhaps unfairly, perceived as the ‘more of the same/Cleggite’ candidate, whereas Farron is different and can placate the left of his party. Yet he clearly understands the political imperative of claiming the centre ground in the era of Corbyn. Encouraging and astute.

  30. SANTAFEMAD
    ‘Wonder when or if the refugee problems will start to have a bigger impact in Europe and whether this will influence attitudes in UK. Europe governance looks rather chaotic ”

    Management of the migrant crisis (if I may rephrase your proposition – most of the illicit migrants are economic migrants and recognized as such – vide Francesca Mogherini statement on, I think, 19 Sept, and the previous EC statements on the Agenda Programme) is a very relevant case for examining whether the UK should stay and influence reform from within.
    The EC Agenda programme is not chaotic as a concept or strategy, but, like the CAP and structural funding programmes which have led to Greece’s economic collapse,, has lacked competent research and appraisal to determine the capacities and attitudes of member countries and new entrants. God knows, however, whether the UK Government or parties have the capacity and intention for the relevant strengthening and reform.

  31. CROSSBAT11

    “Has Cameron given a whole new meaning to pork barrel politics?”

    Interesting to find you trying to keep this tired old story running. I seem to remember you were amongst the first to express outrage when Labour politicians are exposed to the same sort of nonesense. Keep going by all means if it amuses you but it has little to do with the EU referendum which is the subject of this thread. I suspect most of us find it all very boring now. I cannot see it doing Cameron any lasting harm at all.

  32. TOH

    :-)

    Did you see the report of Acadian Flycatcher at Dungeness?-a UK first !. I’m sorely tempted, but it will be a mega twitch.

  33. @ Old Nat

    Nope, no fundamental flaw in my argument; the fundamental flaw is in the SNP playing the EU referendum off against a future Indie referendum. If you can’t see that’s an issue, you’ve crossed over into the blindly partisan territory which you claim to abhor.

  34. @ Old Nat

    SPICe spin from the incumbent government – you should know better than that unless you are being blindly partisan (as I mentioned above).

    Speak to the SNP’s councillors in Edinburgh. If the Scottish government have been sooo generous to local government, how come the SNP councillors are saying they’re being ‘forced’ to vote for privatisation of services & thousands of redundancies due to austerity – which is being imposed by the SNP government’s council tax freeze?

  35. Colin

    Thank’s for the info, it would be new for me in the UK but i have seen it both in North and South America. It is a rather drab species and the Empidonax.are a very tricky family to identify. I’m off to North Norfolk next week for a walking/birdwatching holiday with my wife. Always interesting at this time of year with migration rarities turning up all over the place.

  36. “Lib Dem peers are to breach a convention that the House of Lords should not vote down commitments made in a governing party’s manifesto.”

    Smart move, since they are unlikely to suffer directly from the loss of this convention.

  37. @AU

    “It’s not that surprising Allan – the SNP is a bit like the Alcoholics Anonymous; lots of different people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs who are brought together because they happen to have an issue in common.”

    ——–

    So are you saying the issue in common is that the SNP are like alcoholics, or that they like being anonymous??

  38. TOH

    The pig thing is never going to go away, just like Clinton’s cigar,

  39. Couldn’t help noticing peeps having a nuclear debate sans Carfrew, and furthermore, not much mention of Thorium despite this golden opportunity presenting itself. one despairs…

  40. AW: In the You gov analysis for leave arguments Leave argument 1 & 3 look like the opposite side of the same coin. Same for 2 & 4. Do you deliberately ask the same question twice to test consistency of pollsters response?

    Also I note that the positive spin questions (Leave = UK gets control) have slightly higher scores than the negative (remain = UK has no control). Suggests that positive campaigning, maybe with a hint of patriotism (Britain under control of the people of Britain) would be the best way forward.

    Reason 1
    “Leaving would allow Britain to spend money that currently goes to the EU on better public services”
    Reason 3
    “Remaining in means continuing to contribute billions to an EU budget that would be better spent here”

    Reason 2
    “Leaving would allow Britain to radically reduce immigration into the country”
    Reason 4
    “Remaining in means having no way of limiting or cutting immigration from the EU”

  41. @ Catmanjeff
    “My own personal drift is towards leave, as is probably 50% of the local party I am part of.
    Perhaps we are just a funny old unrepresentative bunch”

    I dont think you are unrepresentative.

    A year ago I would have been an unhesitating member of the remain camp

    After events in Greece and the refugee crisis, I’m seriously starting to wonder if the EU I would like to remain in really exists anymore – if indeed it ever did.

    I’m sure there are many other people of the same mind.

  42. “Do you deliberately ask the same question twice to test consistency of pollsters response?”

    ———-

    It would also reinforce any point being made, were that the case.

  43. If no one replies to or supplements my 8.46 post it will be either that my wording on this fundamental aspect of reform in the context of staying in the EU is, as is often the case, too complex, or evidence of the sheer b.i. that is attached to public attitudes and which will be a salient factor in a referendum.
    There is,in my experience of research and campaigning, an almost total absence in a large part of the UK public of knowledge about the EU, its purpose, structure, powers or relationship to UK laws and government or to current issues.
    The salience of the reform or specific strengthening of the competence. in respect of in-migration, including the present crisis, of the Commission’s attempts to restructure comparative wealth of disparate countries by structural funding or aid, is that they are directed to deploying vast resources to changes in the movements in the market. including the labour market,and including migration.
    If their research is inadequate it means the knowledge base on which employment and labour movement are planned are repeatedly incompetent, and that a more valid and accessible knowledge base – for example that on which the EC have spelled out the need for migration to maintain economic viability in ageing EU societies – is not available either to politicians and governments or to the public in this and other member countries.
    Little wonder that the need or prospect for reform in the context of a referendum, or the specific question of migration, are little understood by the UK public.

  44. HAWTHORN

    Probably not, but it does no harm especially as there appears to be no truth in the allegation. As a Nation we like to make fun of our leaders given the opportunity but as i said it is old news already.

    As to the EU, that was a excellent summary AW. There is still all to play for but it depends in my view on whether or not there is a big negative story on the EU at the time of the referendum. If there is (Greece again?) then that could swing it. There is clearly no love for the EU but a lot of fear about leaving it.

  45. TOH

    As I said before, their press team are not acting as though it is untrue. A simple flat “this is completely made up” line as soon as the Daily Mail would have killed it, but you cannot use that line if there is really nothing to see.

  46. TOH

    You also need to bear in mind that the source is a Tory MP who was an Oxford contemporary of Cameron. This is blue-on-blue action.

  47. JimR – no, it was deliberately done to compare the effect of positive and negative framing. Do people react differently when an argument is framed as “advantages of leaving EU” as opposed to “disadvantages of being in EU”?

  48. Hawthorn

    I suggest you read my original post to Crossbat11. I have to say I find it mildly amusing that you are desperate to keep this running. Colin’s post was much more interesting.

    Colin
    Latest on the flycatcher is that is was een briefly at 7.30 but not since.

  49. TOH

    I certainly myself in the EU “no” camp around the time of the Greek crisis. I am now just about back in the “yes” but by no means certain.

    I personally think that “no” will end up edging the referendum.

  50. Typing letting me down again. Sorry.

1 2 3 4