Voters are estranged from politicians as the Brexit vote nears – and that's good news for everyone

The gap between those who know how they will vote in the EU referendum and the undecided is getting wider, but floating voters won't rely on MPs and the media to make up their mind for them

Daisy Benson
Wednesday 13 April 2016 11:20
Comments
A  Britain Stronger In Europe campaign poster adorns a lamp post in York
A Britain Stronger In Europe campaign poster adorns a lamp post in York

There is a huge divide opening in the EU referendum debate between those who already know how they will vote on 23 June, and everybody else.

Two events I attended last week illustrate the situation. The first was a debate between Paddy Ashdown and Jacob Ree-Mogg in Martock, a large village in rural South Somerset. No surprise that it was attended by a largely self-selecting audience – the majority of whom, a show of hands revealed, had made their minds up before the debate had even started.

The second, however, was a street campaign mounted by Stronger In activists in Yeovil. And by contrast, the majority of people who approached the In crowd’s street stall in the town centre were lacking certainty, keen to get hold of any information that might help them to decide which way to vote. Given that you’re meeting a random selection of the population, across ages and socioeconomic groups, a street stall such as this is much more representative of the general public and the way they feel as the referendum approaches. So what does this tell us?

The difference in public response to these two events can be traced back, I think, to a failure of the mainstream media to engage the British public over Brexit. There are those who have firm views on Britain's role in Europe. But for everyone else the endless trading of slogans, statistics and insults between the two sides is a total turn off. The people simply want to know how they, their children and their friends and relatives would be affected by Brexit so they can make an informed decision.

A combination of a decreasing trust in politicians and public figures coupled with a partisan media has left many voters bewildered and unsure where to turn to find answers.

On Saturday, at the street stall, the most popular materials by far were booklets produced by the European Commission two years ago explaining, in simple terms, what our membership of the European Union means for small business, students, holidaymakers and the environment.

Miliband makes Brexit warning

One woman said she would take the leaflets and distribute them at her workplace “because there is so much misinformation going around”. Another said she would use them to talk about politics with her daughter. The way people vote in this referendum will not be swayed by what politicians say - most people who are unsure how to vote won’t come into contact with a single elected representative during the campaign - but by the conversations taking place in their own homes and offices.

There is a positive element to this. Because people are taking an active role in informing themselves about the EU and its role, they may also begin to think more deeply about their own political choices on other issues too. Some people I spoke at the street stall asked me if the leaflets I was distributing for the Stronger In campaign were taxpayer funded. I explained that they were not. Another woman was angry because she had received a leaflet from the Leave campaign which hadn’t identified it as such.

Voters are no longer willing to be led by what politicians say. They want to fact-check information for themselves, rather rely on third parties to tell them what to think. It is a duty of both sides in the debate to help facilitate this process.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in