UK Voters Need More EU Referendum Information

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Only 24% of British voters feel knowledgeable about the EU referendum according to the Electoral Reform Society, who has released results of a recent poll today. BMG Research conducted the poll which asked voters to answer how well informed they felt about the upcoming referendum. Not even a quarter of voters who answered said they felt “well” or “very well” informed about the EU referendum.

The polling, released today – deadline day to register to vote – shows the number of people who feel well informed about the referendum has hardly changed since February, when 16% reported feeling well or very well informed about the vote, despite months of campaigning, suggesting the campaign has ‘left voters in the dark’. Now, just 6% say they feel ‘very well informed’ while a further 18% say they feel simply ‘well informed’ about the referendum.

The BMG Research polling also shows that 22% of people still haven’t had any contact at all about the vote – despite the government’s pro-EU mail-out to every household in April and an Electoral Commission leaflet in May. The 22% mark is however significantly down on 76% in February, suggesting the leaflets did reach most potential voters. Just 2% of people have had a campaign visit to their home, while a negligible 1% have received a campaign telephone call and just 6% have been approached in the street.

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) are calling for a lively grassroots debate on the ‘politics, rather than the personalities’, in the midst of what they argue has been a ‘party spat-dominated debate’ so far. The ERS want to see a ‘positive push’ in the final three weeks until 23 June, and have created a new online toolkit, Better Referendum, to help inform groups of voters on the issues.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The fact that under a quarter of the public feel well informed about this referendum – despite months of campaigning – is deeply worrying news. Over one in five people still haven’t had any contact at all about the referendum: the real debate just isn’t getting through.

“Voters have been completely left in the dark on what the real issues at stake are in this referendum – instead they’ve had a debate dominated by personality politics, party spats, and name-calling. The tone of the debate has been overwhelmingly negative, turning voters off from the conversation. The public want to hear about the issues and policies that affect them, but instead have been subjected to a Westminster parlour game.

“We need to have a grown-up, positive referendum debate in these final weeks that really speaks to voters – and inspires them with a vision of what Britain would be like remaining or leaving the EU. As things stand, with voters left out in the cold, the prospects for a strong and decisive turnout and an informed decision on 23 May aren’t bleak. Our new online toolkit, Better Referendumhopes to deal with that, but the campaigns and media need to pull out the stops in this last stretch to give the public the high-quality referendum debate they deserve. More than that, we need a grassroots debate in every community to take this conversation outside the Westminster bubble.”