Brexit campaign would have failed before advent of social media, say remain voters in new poll

Nearly half – 47 per cent – of those who voted for the UK to stay in the European Union said their side would have won the referendum if social media did not exist

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Voters who backed Remain in the EU referendum overwhelmingly believe the Brexit campaign would have failed had the poll taken place before the existence of Facebook and Twitter, a survey suggests.

Nearly half – 47 per cent – of those who voted for the UK to stay in the European Union said their side would have won the referendum if social media did not exist, compared to 17 per cent who said Leave would have won.

But the YouGov poll found that including Leave voters, the UK as a whole thinks the Brexit campaign would still have won even without the help of social media (39 per cent to 29 per cent).

The UK does believe social media played an important role in Donald Trump's election as United States president, with 49 per cent saying his victory would have been unlikely without it, compared to 16 per cent who thought it likely.

The survey comes at a time of heightened concern over “fake news” being spread on the likes of Facebook and Twitter during the US election, and worries that social networks have become “echo chambers” where people are not exposed to opposing viewpoints.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of Britons now think companies like Facebook should do more to filter out fake and misleading news stories from what users see on their feeds, compared to 13 per cent who think the level is “about right”.

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Picture: (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The poll was commissioned by Nextdoor, a new social network for neighbourhoods set up by David Cameron's former speechwriter and Downing Street policy adviser, Max Chambers.

Mr Chambers said social media was “clearly an important factor” in the Brexit vote, adding: “Theresa May is right to focus on those who feel left behind by globalisation and new technology.

“It's striking that even though we're notionally more connected than ever before, many people actually feel more alienated and powerless.

“And we know that conventional social media can create 'echo chambers' and divisiveness because we tend to be friends with, or follow people, who are just like us.

“Now more than ever, we need to get out of our bubble, and bring back a sense of real community.”

The survey also revealed that nearly one in 10 people (9 per cent) think the internet is generally a bad thing which damages family life, erodes privacy and helps drive extremist views.

But three-quarters (75 per cent) said the internet was good, spreading information knowledge and power more widely than ever before.

YouGov interviewed 1,658 British adults between 24 and 25 November, and said the figures had been weighted and were representative of all British adults.

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