Who’s In and Who’s Out?
EU Referendum – II
Before looking at these data in more detail, a few words about the way this study, in collaboration with The Guardian, was conducted.
As I explained in my previous Blog we used our proprietary software to explore the ‘feelings’ of 1,000 respondents regarding many aspects of the EU and Referendum. Such feelings arise on the boundary between the conscious and non-conscious mind and comprise a blend, in varying proportions, of emotions and cognition – for further details see my March 23rd Blog Once More With Feeling.
When it comes to the complexity of the issues surrounding ‘stay’ or ‘go’ a lack of precise information either way suggests that emotions play a greater role than knowledge. Because such ‘feelings’ tend to be resistant to change, findings implicit findings are more accurate and durable across time than explicit results.
We found that almost six out of ten respondents (57%) felt the UK should remain a part of the European Union, while 43% of the sample indicated that they would opt to leave. When we included the option ‘I am unsure’, just over one in six (15%) of respondents used this option. Two in five (37%) felt that Brexit was the best option while just under half (47%) indicated a preference for remaining.
One of the main goals of this study was to see if we could use implicit data to further separate these groups. To this end we identified respondents who held strong positions in either direction. For the purposes of this, ‘strong’ opinions were identified as being above 7 on a Likert scale indicating how sure they were (from 1 – ‘I am not certain at all’ to 10 = ‘I am extremely certain’).
Once we had obtained a sample of such participants we then used their implicit positivity, associated with remaining / leaving the EU alongside their attitudes towards the key political issues to build a classifier that could be used to predict the probability that any particular individual would be inclined to vote either in our out.
According to the probability assigned participants were allocated into one of five groups: Strong out, Weak out, Undecided, Weak in and Strong in. Chart 1 below shows the differences between ‘explicitly’ and Implicitly derived answers:
The Tables below show both the percentage of times an issue was prioritised and the feelings they generated. The colours indicate the strongest and weakest sentiments per group. Green represents where the group most aligned, and red the opposite.
Voter preferences by Gender
As Table 1 shows, a higher percentage of men than women think the UK should remain in the EU, although both sexes were almost equally likely to feel Undecided or vote to leave.
Strong In males felt more strongly and positively about staying than did Strong Out men. Those in the Weak In, Undecided and Weak Out should negative feelings on the issue with the Undecided being most negative of all.
Voter preferences by Age
As other surveys have found, our research confirmed the strong preference to remain among 18 to 24 years old voters with almost half (49%) feeling we should stay in the EU and only 3% feeling strongly that it would be better to leave. Strong positive feelings were generated among those favouring remain while equally powerful negative associated were found in the Brexiters. Indeed it was only in this age range that equally powerful feelings, for and against, were found. Those most likely to strongly feel like leaving were aged between 50 and 59 (31%) although after the age of forty around one in five held this opinion. Those over eighty were least likely to be undecided (6%) but were far more likely to vote to leave (56%) than remain (39%).
Remain or Leave Preferences by Region
The Scots feel most strongly we should remain (41%) in the EU while those in Yorkshire and the Humber being least likely to want to stay in (22%). After Scotland, Londoners (37%) and the Northern Irish (33%) have the highest proportion feeling we should remain. People in the South West feel we should Vote Leave (29%), followed closely by East Midlanders (25%). All regions that are Strongly In have positive feelings about the EU, compared with only two regions (Scotland and Northern Ireland) in the Strong Out group.
- Those who feel strongly we should either stay in or leave are most likely to be male, while women are more likely to be undecided.
- Younger participants were more likely to think Britain should say in the EU, while older participants were more likely to want to leave.
- Finally, people in Scotland and London were most likely to be in the ‘strong in’ group, while those in the South West and the East Midlands were most likely to strongly feel that Britain should leave.
But how important is Europe for a majority of voters? As I will explain in my next EU blog, our research has shown that it is far less of a priority than most in the Westminster Village would have us believe.
Read more on this series