Public hungry for more information on EU vote

Fears that referendum turnout could be low due to a ‘toxic cocktail’ of high interest but lack of information


With Barack Obama set to intervene in the UK’s debate about its future (or not) in the European Union, new research suggests  that a clear majority of the public are interested in the referendum, but a worrying number feel inadequately informed.

According to the data prepared by BMG Research for the Electoral Reform Society, 68 per cent of the public indicated an interest in the referendum.

However, in the week that the Treasury published its analysis of the economic and financial consequences of leaving the European Union just seven per cent of the public indicated that they felt ‘very well informed’ about the debate, and 16 per cent feel ‘well informed’.

The polling found also a clear link between how well informed people felt about the debate and their likelihood to vote in the referendum in June.

Asked whether they would be more likely to vote if they had more information about the main issues, 23 per cent of respondent said they would be much more likely to vote, while a further 16 per cent said they would be a little more likely to vote.

Commenting on the findings, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

“This polling shows that contrary to the popular narrative, the public aren’t bored by the EU debate – in fact, there are high levels of interest, with seven in 10 saying they are following the conversation.

“Yet there is a real desire for balanced information from both sides – under a quarter of people say they have a good level of understanding about the referendum issues. The public feel left in the dark by an EU referendum debate that has so far focused largely on personality politics and internal party spats – more than the actual issues at stake.”

“We are at risk of seeing a toxic cocktail of high levels of interest but a lack of balanced information in the debate.”

The findings come as new polling suggests the remain campaign maintains a dominant position. According to IPSOS Mori’s political monitor for April, 49 per cent of people support staying in the EU compared to 39 per cent who want to leave.  

The polling found also that the impact on Britain’s economy is by far the most important issue for voters preparing for the referendum followed by immigration and the ability for the UK to make its own laws.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI, said:

“Remain holds its lead, with the economy still top of the agenda, especially to those wanting to stay in. But the flipside is that remain supporters say they are more persuadable to change their vote based on what’s best for the economy than are leave supporters on their key issue of immigration.”

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