Few voters feel ‘well informed’ about EU referendum

By agency reporter
May 30, 2016

Polling for the Electoral Reform Society released on 25 May 2016 shows that the number of people who feel well informed about the EU referendum has gone down – even after the Government sent out a leaflet to 27 million homes making the case for staying in the EU.

The BMG Research poll, commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), shows the percentage of people who said they’d been contacted about the EU referendum by leaflet rose from just 25 per cent in March to 63 per cent in the weeks following the government’s pro-EU mail-out to every UK household.

However, the polling also found that the percentage of people who said they felt well,  or very well informed about the referendum actually fell from 23 per cent at the end of March to 21 per cent at the end of April, two weeks after the mail-out sent on the 11 April. The ERS points out that this lack of information is not for lack of interest, as the BMG polling shows 69 per cent of people are ‘interested’ or ‘very interested’ in the referendum.

In addition, the research showed that the percentage of people who said that the Government were the most important source of information when making up their mind on the EU referendum rose by just two percentage points, from eight per cent to 10 per cent, between the end of March and the end of April after the leaflet was sent out.

The findings come as the Electoral Reform Society and leading universities release a new online democratic tool for the EU vote, Better Referendum. The site will allow people to organise EU debates in their local area in the run up to the 23 June vote, with the Society viewing it as essential that there is ‘a vibrant and diverse debate in communities across the country – not just one-sided leaflets’.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Leaflets are all well and good, but clearly they are not enough to create the kind of genuinely informed and engaging EU debate the public deserves – as this poll demonstrates. We need a dynamic campaign rather than just one-sided mail-drops – voters want to be able to compare information from both sides so that they know the full story.

“These findings show that voters’ need for an informed debate isn’t being met by the campaigns at present, and the Government’s huge leaflet drop appears to have had little effect. The lack of a well-informed conversation isn’t because people don’t care – 69 per cent of people say they are interested or very interested in the referendum. So there is huge scope for creating a lively national conversation.

“As well as hearing the clear facts and arguments from both sides, we want to see a vibrant referendum debate – not just one-sided government leaflets but conversations in communities, colleges and workplaces across the UK about this crucial issue. That’s what got people out to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, and that’s what we need across the UK between now and 23 June.

“Today we are launching a new online tool, Better Referendum, to give people both sides of the argument, presented clearly in one place. But more than that, people will be able to use the toolkit to debate the issues in their own communities. With younger voters at particular risk of missing out through under-registration or feeling under-informed action is essential.  Let’s liven up this debate from the grassroots up so that we have a referendum that actually inspires people to get out there and vote.”

* The Better Referendum tool is here

* Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

Further resources from Ekklesia on the EU referendum: *What kind of European future? (Ekklesia, 13 June 2016) – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23160
* Assessing Christian contributions to the EU referendum debate (Ekklesia, 20 June 2016) – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23188* Ten principles to guide voting in the EU referendum and beyond (Ekklesia, 21 June 2016) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23194
* Ekklesia’s EU referendum briefing and commentary: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/eureferendum

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