How Both BS Susceptibility and EU Knowledge Influence Voters’ Priorities
EU Referendum – Blog 4
Do you consider the following statements ‘Profound’ or ‘Meaningless’?
‘Culture illuminates the door of excellence’
‘Death is reborn in the light of observations’
‘Evolution opens descriptions of phenomena’
‘Freedom is the ground of innumerable experience
Statements like these formed the ‘Bullsh*t Susceptibility Scale’ (BSS) in a EU Referendum study we conducted in collaboration with the Guardian. Designed to sound, at least at first reading as deep and wise, they were in fact pretension nonsense. 1000 participants were invited to move a slider to indicate, on a 1 to 7 Likert scale, the extent to which they found them insightful. Their scores were then categorised as Low, Medium, High or Very High.
In a second quiz we tested voters’ knowledge of the EU by posing such questions as:
- 1. Who is Wolfgang Schäuble?
- 2. What is the name of the treaty that was responsible for the creation of the EU?
- 3. What is the Schengen area?
What we wanted to see the extent to which scores on these tests influenced the priorities each of the five voter groups (Strong In; Weak In; Undecided; Strong Out; Weak Out) we identified. (See my earlier blog for a full description of these groups) attached to key social issues. The results are shown in Tables 1 and 2 below.
Table 1 – Bull Susceptibility Scale (BSS)
As with charts shown in my previous blogs, the deeper the green, the stronger the priority, the deeper the red, the weaker.
If we consider the NHS, the issue that generated the strongest positive associations we see that a low BSS score significantly increased the time this issue was prioritised compared to those with a high Score (71% vs. 59%). In other words people who are more thoughtful rank it as having greater important than the more susceptible to statements that seem insightful while being anything but.
A similar, although smaller, difference was found on the issue that generated the strongest negative feelings – Europe. Here voters with low or medium BSS scores prioritised it somewhat less frequently (28% & 27%) than those with a High or Very High score (30% % 32%).
Let’s now examine the extent to which knowledge of the EU affects priorities. Once again scores were placed on one of four categories. Low indicates poor knowledge and Very high a strong performance.
Table 2 – Issue Priority vs EU Knowledge
Here we can see that more knowledgeable voters prioritised economy higher (green bars) significantly more often than did low knowledge voters (51% vs. 39%). Similarly knowledge about the EU made them substantially less negative about Immigration and somewhat less negative about Europe.
When we examined the response time we found that the more knowledgeable voters’ were more reflective and less automatic in their answers. Table 3 shows the amount of time (in milliseconds) taken to answer – the longer the time the more thoughtful the response.
Table 3 – Decision Conviction vs Bull Susceptibility
Noticeable in the above is the fact that more knowledgeable voters take time to consider their options whereas the less knowledgeable ones make more rapid and automatic judgements.
Over the past four blogs I have explored some of the key issues about the EU referendum identified by our research. In my fifth and final blog I will summarise these findings and also provide a link to the Power Point PDF that shows all the results.