Friday 30 September 2016

PM 'having effect of encouraging voters to back Brexit'

Published 10/06/2016 | 00:11

Prominent advocates of keeping Britain in the bloc will be alarmed by the evidence that they are in fact encouraging people to back the rival camp.
Prominent advocates of keeping Britain in the bloc will be alarmed by the evidence that they are in fact encouraging people to back the rival camp.

Voters are twice as likely to have been persuaded to vote to leave the EU by listening to David Cameron than convinced to remain, according to a new poll.

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Research for the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) suggested most people were entirely unmoved by interventions from leading political figures.

But the Prime Minister and other prominent advocates of keeping Britain in the bloc will be alarmed by the evidence that they are in fact encouraging people to back the rival camp.

Pollsters BMG quizzed a representative sample of 1,638 UK adults online between May 20-25 about how influenced they had been by various high-profile individuals.

They found that while 15% of people said they were more likely to support Remain on the back of what they had heard from the Prime Minister, another 29% had been swung towards Brexit, including 33% of Conservative supporters.

Some 56% had not had their opinion changed at all by the welter of warnings being issued by the PM.

Some of those he unwittingly pushed in the wrong direction may have been won back to the pro-EU cause by his bitter referendum rival Boris Johnson.

A quarter said the Vote Leave figurehead had pushed them further towards divorce with Brussels but one in five reported the opposite.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage encouraged 22% towards Leave and 17% towards Remain.

The figures appeared to back the case of those complaining Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has not been sufficiently vocal, with the verdict of more than two thirds (68%) not shifted either way by him.

Some 19% said they were more likely to vote Leave as a result of what they had heard from him - with 13% becoming more pro-EU.

The poll backed previous findings that US President Barack Obama's stark warnings about the UK being at the "back of the queue" for a trade deal post-Brexit may have misfired - with 24% saying he'd made them more likely to vote out to 16% in.

His potential White House successor Donald Trump however was more successful, pushing 19% towards Leave and 11% towards Remain. Some 70% denied the billionaire had any impact on their decision.

ERS chief executive Katie Ghose said: "These surprising findings show that the public are completely switched off by the 'big names' of the EU referendum debate.

"Voters are tired of personality politics, and it's driving them away from engaging with the referendum, with the public seeing it as a battle within parties and Westminster rather than the crucial decision for Britain's future that it is.

"Almost all interventions from heavy-hitting Leave and Remain figures have made people more likely to vote to Leave or had no impact.

"Hearing only from polarising or controversial figures could be making voters turn away from the arguments they are hearing, which strengthens the need for the public to have their own mediated debates in communities across the UK, something the ERS and university partners are enabling through our Better Referendum initiative."

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