A Matter of Priorities
EU Referendum – Blog 3
Given the acres of newsprint and thousands of hours of broadcasting devoted to the EU Referendum, one might suppose Europe to be high on the list of voters’ priorities. Our research indicates otherwise. While there are undoubtedly some for whom the decision to remain or leave is the highest priority, a majority place it fairly low down on the issues that concern them.
This part of the study, in collaboration with the Guardian, determined implicitly the priority of ten key issues for our 1,000 participants . These areas of concern, included the NHS, Immigration, Crime, Education, Low Pay and Europe. The results were analysed by the five voter categories I described in my previous EU blog. These are: Strongly In; Weakly In; Undecided; Weakly Out and Strongly Out.
The Tables below show both the percentage of times an issue was prioritised and the feelings they generated. Red indicates negative and green positive feelings, the darker the colour the stronger the sentiment aroused.
As Table 1 below shows, the NHS was prioritised a greater percentage of times by all except Strongly Out voters for whom it came a close second to Immigration (74% vs. 71%). The dark green colour indicates the feelings were all highly positive.
Those strongly in favour of leaving the EU unsurprisingly prioritised Immigration 74% of the time (compared to 25% of the time by those strongly in favour of remaining). Interestingly both they, the Weak Out and Undecided groups had positive feelings about this issue – extremely positive in the case of the Strong Out. Both the Strong and Weak In voters had negative feelings about it.
One can speculate this is because those favouring Brexit or still Undecided, regard high levels of immigration as helpful when it comes to persuading others to their viewpoint. The same negative and positive feelings can be seen where Crime is concerned. Here half (50%) of those favouring Brexit had positive feeling on this issue while the Strong In voted were much less concerned with it and expressed strongly negative feelings.
Strongly pro-EU voters prioritised Education (51%); Unemployment (45%) and Inequality (42%) more often than any of the other groups. Apart from Immigration (74%) the issues prioritised by strong supporters of Brexit are Crime (50%) and Housing (46%). Europe was prioritised 40% of the time by Strong Out voters but only 20% of the time by voters strongly in favour of remaining in the EU.
Male Female Differences -Table 2
We looked at both the percentage of times that a key issue was prioritised over others and the strength of feeling as measured by the speed with which a response was provided.
As can be seen a slightly higher percentage of women afford Education a higher priority than men (46% vs. 43%) whereas more men than women prioritise the economy (50% vs. 45%). Women in our sample were also somewhat quicker to make their decisions about what to prioritise. Positive or negative feelings for each of the issues matched in direction although not always in strength as the colours indicate.
Differences by Age – Table 3
In line with other studies, our data shows younger voters view the EU significantly more favourably than do older ones. For the under thirties, both Europe and Immigration are significantly less of a priority than for the over fifties. On Europe a third of 18 to 24 year olds (33%) and a quarter of 25 to 29 year olds (24%) see this as an issues compared to four in ten (41%) of over eighties.
On Immigration the split is even greater, while around a third of the under thirties make this a priority after the age of fifty just over half do.
For voters below 25 Education is slightly more of a priority (53%) than any other group except for those aged eighty and over (50%). With the NHS it is the only issue to arouse positive feelings across all age groups.
In my next blog I will explore the extent to which accurate knowledge and false beliefs about the EU influences voting choices.
Read more on this series