Can we improve the quality of the referendum debate?

calculator-scientificThe Treasury Select Committee has said that the EU referendum debate ‘is being poorly served by inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims’. Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the UCL Constitution Unit, asks whether there is anything that can be done about this. He identifies a number of possible mechanisms for identifying falsehoods and enforcing truthfulness, but warns that there is a danger that injunctions against certain claims could be presented as evidence of an ‘establishment plot’. A deeper shift in political culture may be required.

Alan Renwick has co-ordinated an open letter to the Daily Telegraph from a group of over 200 senior academics to criticise the deliberate misinformation circulated by both sides of the Brexit debate.

How can we encourage accuracy in the claims made by referendum campaigners? This has become a vital concern. In its report published last month, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee said, ‘The public debate is being poorly served by inconsistent, unqualified and, in some cases, misleading claims and counter-claims. Members of both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ camps are making such claims.’  Speaking at the weekend, Sir John Major said, ‘I am angry about the way the British people are being misled’, and argued that Vote Leave were running ‘a deceitful campaign’. Continue reading

Turn out or else: do referendum campaigns actually change voters’ minds?

Ros TaylorOver £9m has been spent on leaflets for all British household outlining the arguments in favour of remaining in the EU. But do campaign activities actually sway voters in referendums? Would campaigners do best to try to change minds, or simply motivate their supporters to turn out at the polls? Which arguments will prove decisive? Sara Hobolt, Professor at the LSE European Institute, and Sara Hagemann, Assistant Professor at the LSE European Institute, report on the expert evidence gathered at the eighth LSE Commission on the Future of Britain in Europe.

Looking at the development in vote intentions ahead of the upcoming referendum on UK membership of the EU, it is tempting to conclude that the campaign makes no real difference. The authoritative EU Referendum Poll of Polls, compiled by Professor John Curtice, shows remarkably little movement in aggregate public opinion. The race is too close to call, with the Remain side slightly in the lead in telephone polls and the Leave side ahead in most online polls. So does this static picture mean that campaigners’ efforts are in vain? Continue reading

Who will offer a winning vision of immigration after the referendum?

immigrationSteven Ballinger, Director of Communications for British Future, says Brexit campaigners have yet to offer credible visions on immigration that address voters concerns while also acknowledging certain realities. Whichever side does so will greatly improve their chances in June. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

Immigration is not the only issue in the EU referendum – it is not even the top issue for most voters, according to ICM research for British Future’s recent publication How (not) to talk about Europe. But it is still probably fair to say that the main reason we are having a referendum on Britain’s EU membership is, in a word, immigration. The issue remains more salient and more important to the public than the EU itself. Ask most people to describe how the EU affects them and the issues of free movement and immigration are those most likely to come up. Continue reading