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Operations note: Electoral Reform Society spokespeople available for comment/interviews over referendum period

20th June 2016
20 Jun 2016

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Operations note: Electoral Reform Society spokespeople available for comment/interviews over referendum period

20th June 2016. For bookings or for more information contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07717211630.

Spokespeople from the Electoral Reform Society will be available for comment and interviews over the referendum period – including the day of the referendum and throughout Thursday night.

ERS spokespeople will be able to provide comment and interviews on:

  • General referendum commentary – including the referendum process itself
  • Comparisons to the 2011 referendum on the Alternative Vote, which the ERS played a key role in. ERS Chief Executive Katie Ghose was Chair of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign
  • Comparisons to the Scottish referendum, including difference in levels of engagement/awareness
  • Turnout – both likely and final, and analysis of potential reasons for high/low turnout.
  • The state of the referendum debate and nature/tone of the campaign
  • Overall interest in the referendum
  • Specific national commentary for Scotland and Wales

Spokespeople and availability

  • Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society and Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society will be available for TV, radio and phone interviews from London and the Manchester count on Thursday (including throughout the night), as well as on Friday in the day. Contact Josiah Mortimer (details at the top) to arrange an interview.
  • ERS Cymru Director Steve Brooks will be available for radio/TV and phone interviews on Thursday (including throughout the night) and Friday from Cardiff. Contact Stephen.Brooks@electoral-reform.org.uk to arrange an interview.
  • ERS Scotland spokespeople Katie Gallogly-Swan and Rory Scothorne will be available for radio/TV and phone interviews throughout Thursday and Friday from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Contact Katie.GalloglySwan@electoral-reform.org.uk or Rory.Scothorne@electoral-reform.org.uk to arrange an interview.

The Electoral Reform Society is a key commentator on the referendum and issues surrounding it, and can offer high-quality insight from a neutral point of view, as well as on what the organisation would like to see happen following the different results.

The ERS is Britain’s longest-standing and most prominent organisation campaigning for a better democracy in the UK. For more information see here: www.electoral-reform.org.uk and follow us during the referendum period on Twitter.

To arrange an interview with one of the spokespeople listed above, or for more information contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07717211630.

Low turnout feared as only 62% say they’ll definitely vote in #EUref

16th June 2016
16 Jun 2016

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For immediate release, 16th June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Campaigners are warning of a low turnout and a ‘worrying demographic divide’ in the EU referendum - which alongside a close result could lead to the perception that the result on June 23rd will be ‘inconclusive’.

The poll by BMG Research [1] commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society points to a significant ‘demographic divide’ in that 67% of wealthier ABC1 individuals say they’ll definitely vote, compared to just 55% of those from poorer C2DE backgrounds. This is alongside the fact that just 62% of people say they’ll definitely vote in next week’s referendum. Moreover, BMG Research revealed a worrying age gap recently, with just 47% of 18-24 year olds saying they’ll definitely vote, compared to 80% of those aged 65 or older.

The BMG Research polling [2] shows that another 14% say they’ll ‘probably’ vote - but voters tend to overstate their own likelihood to vote in polls, meaning that the actual result could be even lower.

The findings released today are compounded by the fact that just 22% of people feel ‘well’ or ‘very well’ informed about the referendum, up just six percentage points from February. There is a clear link between how well informed people feel and their likelihood to vote.

To deal with the fact that so few voters feel well informed about the referendum issues, the Electoral Reform Society are calling for a lively grassroots debate on the ‘politics, rather than the personalities’, in the midst of what they argue has been a Westminster-dominated affair so far. The ERS and leading universities have created a new online ‘toolkit’ featuring both official campaigns and experts, Better Referendum [3], to help inform groups of voters ahead of the 23rd.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“These findings are deeply concerning, and show there is a real risk of a low turnout and a demographic divide when voters go to the ballot box on June 23rd. A poor turnout alongside a close result poses the risk that people will view the decision as inconclusive, and we could see calls for further referendums or questioning of the validity of the result from either side.

“The last thing anyone wants to see is a contested and challenged outcome. Instead this is an opportunity to have a decisive result, so the campaigns should be doing everything they can do boost turnout, particularly among those groups that are most ‘switched off’ from the debate so far. Millions applied to register to vote in the month and few days before the registration deadline, a real opportunity to engage more people and from more backgrounds.

“However, the demographic gap is worrying – with 67% of wealthier Brits saying they’ll vote compared to just 55% of those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, and under half of 18-24 year olds saying they’ll vote. This referendum can’t be decided by one demographic on behalf of another – it should be the result of a great national conversation involving everyone.

“One of the main reasons appears to be that voters feel completely left in the dark about this debate, with only 22% feeling well informed. The public are switched off from this vital debate – and it’s no surprise given the Westminster parlour games and party spats that have dominated that campaign.

“It doesn’t have to be like this however. With a week to go until the referendum, voters have a small window of opportunity to get clued up, away from the personality politics of the campaign and stat-hurling of the campaign so far. Our Better Referendum online tool is a chance to do just that and we hope potential voters make use of it in this crucial last week.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] Representative poll of 1638 UK adults, conducted online at the end of May. For full cross-tabs contact Josiah Mortimer (details above).

[3] BetterReferendum.org.uk (contact Josiah Mortimer for more information) has being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).

 

Public switched off by ‘big names’ wading into EU referendum debate

10th June 2016
10 Jun 2016

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For immediate release, 10th June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


New polling for the Electoral Reform Society by BMG Research shows that ‘big names’ wading into the referendum debate has in almost all cases had the opposite effect to the one intended on how people will vote, or had no impact at all.

The ERS commissioned BMG Research to ask voters how the interventions of major politicians into the EU referendum debate has affected how they will vote on June 23rd.

Analysing the results, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“These surprising findings show that the public are completely switched off by the ‘big names’ of the EU referendum debate. Voters are tired of personality politics and it’s driving them away from engaging with the referendum, with the public seeing it as a battle within parties and Westminster rather than the crucial decision for Britain’s future that it is.

“Almost all interventions from heavy-hitting Leave and Remain figures have made people more likely to vote to Leave or had no impact, perhaps an indication in a campaign largely perceived as top-down and Westminster-dominated people are viewing Leave as the anti-establishment ‘option’. Hearing only from polarising or controversial figures could be making voters turn away from the arguments they are hearing, which strengthens the need for the public to have their own mediated debates in communities across the UK, something the ERS and university partners are enabling through our Better Referendum initiative. [3].

“Party cues are important in referendum campaigns - in complex constitutional matters voters look for guidance from political figures they respect – and party loyalties matter. But interventions from the ‘big beasts’ should go hand in hand with a mature, issues-based and positive debate, alongside grassroots conversations in every part of the UK – the kind of lively discussions we saw with the Scottish referendum. Referendums only work when accompanied by the opportunity for the public to grasp the agenda for themselves.

“The interesting feature of this referendum is that party cues are mixed, with the Conservative party divided and many Labour supporters unsure of Labour’s official position to support Remain. That makes good arguments and the quality of information more important, yet the personality focus and parlour games means people aren’t getting what they are looking for and are ending up more confused. In these last few weeks, it’s time to pull out all the stops and stimulate lively, grassroots conversation the public deserves.”

The research shows that:

  • Boris Johnson’s contribution to the debate has made 20% of people more likely to vote to Remainonly five percentage points less than those it made more likely to Leave. 21% of 25-34 year olds said his contribution has made them more likely to vote to Remain, compared to 14% for Leave. 34% of Labour voters say it has made them more likely to vote Remain, to just 14% Leave, suggesting they are following party cues, while it had no impact on 55% of voters.
  • David Cameron’s contribution to the campaign has made 29% of people say they’re more likely to vote Leave, compared to 15% for whom it has made more likely to vote Remain. 33% of Conservatives say it’s made them more likely to vote Leave, alongside 26% of Labour voters. The ERS believe this is a reflection of party cues being split at senior levels between Leave and Remain. 56% of people say Cameron’s interventions have had no impact on their vote.
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s interventions have had no impact on 68% of the public, while it has made 19% more likely to vote Leave – compared to just 13% it’s made more likely to stay. However, it has had some impact on young people, making 17% (to 12% against) of 18-24 year olds more likely to Remain. For over 65s, it has made 29% more likely to vote Leave. It has had an impact on Labour voters, making 31% (to 8%) more likely to vote to Remain, but has mobilised Conservatives against Remain by 2:1 (21% to 10%), again consistent with the analysis above.
  • Nigel Farage’s interventions have had the intended impact, making 22% more likely to vote to Leave, compared to 17% he’s made more likely to vote Remain. However, it has had no impact on 61% of voters, while making 25% of 18-25 year olds more likely to get out and vote Remain. He has encouraged more Conservative voters to opt to Leave (19% to 15%)…while by a factor of 2:1 encouraging more Labour members to vote Remain (32% to 14%). Again, we are seeing a controversial figure galvanise as many to oppose as to support his views.
  • Nicola Sturgeon has made 15% of people across the UK more likely to vote Leave, to 9% who’ll now be more likely to vote Remain – while 75% of people say her contribution has had no impact on their decision. Although the sample is small, 24% of those in Scotland say her intervention means they’re more likely to vote Leave, to 18% Remain.
  • Alan Johnson’s intervention has had no impact on 83% of voters, making 10% more likely to vote Leave and 7% more likely to vote Remain, within the margin of error.
  • Barack Obama’s entry into the campaign made 24% more likely to vote Leave, compared to 16% more likely to stay, although 31% of 18-24 year olds said it made them more likely to vote to Remain.    
  • Finally, Donald Trump’s intervention has had the desired impact, with his call for Britain to Leave making 19% more likely to Leave, compared to 10% it’s made more likely to stay. 70% of people say he’s had no impact on their decision.

 

The ERS and leading universities around the UK have set up an online toolkit for the EU referendum called Better Referendum, to take groups of voters through the issues and encourage them to organise their own debates [3]

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

 

Notes

 

The ERS’ logo is available here:https://www.dropbox.com/s/beno8jb5foind7k/ERS%20Logo%20colour%20on%20white%20copy.jpg?dl=0A photo of Katie Ghose is available here:https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[1] http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] Representative poll of 1638 UK adults, conducted online between 20th-25th May. For full cross-tabs contact Josiah Mortimer (details above).

[3] Better Referendum (contact Josiah Mortimer for more information) has being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).

 

Campaigners call for EU registration deadline to be extended

8th June 2016
8 Jun 2016

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For immediate release, 9:20am, June 8th 2016

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society

For more quotes, comment or information, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer on 07717211630 or Josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the Cabinet Office’s Register to Vote website crashing last night [1], Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s clear given the technical errors last night that the registration deadline should be extended.

“Around 27,000 people were still using the website when it crashed, and while the government said they were accepting applications after midnight because of this, most only found that out this morning when it was too late. Applications dropped off a cliff with just minutes until the deadline because of this and the faults with the site [2].

“It’s positive that the government are looking at ways of extending the deadline and we welcome this.

“This is a similar situation to the 2010 General Election, when people were turned away from polling stations despite being in the queues before close of polls. Those queueing up last night shouldn’t be turned away, and plenty more may have heard about the site crashing and not bothered. There’s still time to put this right, with over two weeks to go until the referendum. 

 ““Given the huge rush to register there is clearly a huge demand for people to have their voice heard, so we believe the deadline should be extended until at least midnight tonight, or ideally the end of the week if feasible. Everyone turned away needs time to hear about the extension and to sign up, and a day might not be long enough given the high numbers involved.

“Over 1.5m people have applied to register this past week, and 525,000 on the final day alone. This huge enthusiasm to take part shouldn’t be cast aside because of a short cut off.

“The #EURefReady campaign launched by the Electoral Commission just a couple of days ago in response to fears of low registration shows just how hard the task is of getting people on the register.

“Both the campaigns are talking about democracy when it comes to the EU referendum – it’s time we applied it to this vote and ensured as many as possible can have their say, despite the glitches last night. An extension to the deadline, met with a corresponding increase in support for Electoral Registration Officers, would be a huge democratic boost for this campaign and this country.

“Fundamentally though, we need a registration revolution in the UK – making voter registration a year-round activity rather than a last minute registration rush – so that people don’t have to jump through hoops to exercise their democratic rights. Voter registration should be triggered at every opportunity - from claiming pensions or benefits, applying for a driving licence or moving home’.

ENDS

Notes

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36476176

[2] https://www.gov.uk/performance/register-to-vote

Just one in four feel well informed about EU ref, warn campaigners

7th June 2016
7 Jun 2016

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For immediate release, 7th June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Only 24% of voters say they feel ‘well’ or ‘very well’ informed about the EU referendum, according to new BMG Research [1] polling released today by the Electoral Reform Society.

The polling, released on the day of the deadline 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 [2] 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 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 June 23rd, and have created an new online toolkit, Better Referendum [3], 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 May 23rd aren’t bleak. Our new online toolkit, Better Referendum, hopes 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.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] Representative poll of 1638 UK adults, conducted online between 20th-25th May. For full cross-tabs contact Josiah Mortimer (details above).

[3] Better Referendum (contact Josiah Mortimer for more information) has being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).

ERS welcomes revised Wales Bill and calls for ‘swift progress’

7th June 2016
7 Jun 2016

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For immediate release, 7th June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Dr Owain ap Gareth on owain.apgareth@electoral-reform.org.uk or 0771661802


Electoral Reform Society Cymru have welcomed the revised Wales Bill released today [1] alongside the Queen’s opening of the Senedd, but have called for ‘good and swift progress’ on passing it so that Welsh politics – particularly when it comes to the voting system and size of the Assembly -  can be reformed in time for the next Assembly elections.

Dr Owain ap Gareth, Campaigns and Research Officer at ERS Cymru, said:

“We welcome the revised draft Wales Bill published today, and look forward to analysing it in detail. This is an object lesson in the importance of pre-legislative scrutiny and in bringing expertise in early in the process. We are glad that the UK Government have responded positively to constructive criticisms, and doing so is an indication of strength, not weakness.

“The changes made will strengthen Welsh devolution and the ability of Wales to decide its own future. While it is important that this new draft faces detailed scrutiny, it is also vital that we make swift progress so that the reforms the National Assembly needs can be made  in time for the next Welsh Assembly elections.

“Those 2021 elections may seem far away, but a lot needs to be done and it is vital that parties work together to secure a stronger, larger and fairer Assembly that can properly hold the Welsh government to account.

“The devolution of powers over the size and voting system of the Assembly provide vital tools to shape an Assembly that can act as a better watchdog over the Welsh Government’s policies and laws made that affect us all. Wales needs a fairer voting system for a larger, more effective Senedd. We saw in the recent election that the current Addditional Member System – while much better than Westminster’s First Past the Post system – was unresponsive to voters’ changing views. We have the opportunity to provide for a democracy that better serves Wales’ needs.

“We look forward to going through the Bill in detail. It is important that all parties work together to get the Bill through, and also prepare their positions in anticipation of the devolution of these powers. Otherwise we are in danger of having to wait until the 2026 election before we have the stronger, larger and fairer Assembly that the people of Wales deserve.”

ENDS

Notes

[1] The revised Bill has been published here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wales-bill--2

[2] Read the ERS’ response to the initial Wales Bill here: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/good-news-welsh-elections

Poll: ‘Stark’ generation gap in EU referendum persists, say campaigners

3rd June 2016
3 Jun 2016

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For immediate release, 3rd June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


A ‘stark’ generation gap in the EU referendum debate persists, according to BMG Research polling [1] for the Electoral Reform Society released today.

The polling shows that younger people are ‘totally disengaged’ from the debate, and that there are huge variations in how people are getting their information.

Just 47% of 18-24 year olds say they will definitely vote, compared to 80% of those aged 65 or older - up only slightly from the end of April when the figures were 41% and 76%.

The Society claims this chimes with a general disconnect among young people with the referendum debate, with only 16% of 18-24 year olds saying they felt ‘well informed’ or ‘very well informed’ – compared to 32% of those aged 65 or older.

The findings about how well informed young people feel about the referendum are actually adecline on the same figures for the end of April, when 22% of 18-24 year olds said they felt well or very well informed about the debate.

The BMG Research [2] polling for the ERS also shows that young people still aren’t being reached by the campaigns: a third – 32% - of 18-24 year olds have not been contacted about the referendum at all so far, compared to just 13% of those aged 65 or older.

There are major differences between how potential voters are being contacted about the referendum, with 49% of 18-24 year olds receiving a leaflet on the issue, compared to 84% of 65+. At the same time, 32% of 18-24 year olds have been contacted about the referendum on social media, compared to just 11% of those aged 65+.

The polling shows that older voters are much more likely to be informed about their decision by traditional and ‘conventional’ sources than younger voters – with 38% of those aged 65+ most informed by the BBC, compared to 28% of 18-24 year olds, while just 9% of those in the latter group are most influenced by newspapers compared to 28% of older voters. And 19% of those in the younger bracket have been most informed through social media, compared to only 5% of those over 65. 

The findings come as academics and campaigners [3] launch a new online tool for the EU referendum, [betterreferendum.org.uk]Better Referendum – a ‘primer’ for groups of people to arrange meetups and have informed debates on the EU referendum.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“These findings show that a stark generation gap persists when it comes to how engaged people are in the EU referendum debate. Young people simply haven’t been mobilised by either of the campaigns. The fact that interest hasn’t picked up since the end of March suggests that this problem is entrenching itself or even getting worse. And the huge 33 percentage point chasm between young and old when it comes to whether they will ‘definitely’ vote bodes badly for our democracy when it comes to ensuring we have as representative a vote as possible. This is compounded by the fact that double the proportion of 65+ voters say they feel well informed about the referendum compared to 18-24 year olds.

“With Leave and Remain close in the polls, campaigners need to be targeting those young people who have been least engaged so far. One in five 18-34 year olds are undecided – but only 47% of them say they’ll definitely vote as things stand. A low turnout among young people isn’t inevitable however, as we saw with the Scottish referendum. But they need to be inspired to get out there.

“The campaigns need to make sure younger people are registered – around four million 18-24 year olds are unregistered, so with three weeks to go until the referendum, we need extra efforts to encourage them to sign up in colleges, universities and workplaces across the country.”

“This referendum shouldn’t be decided by one generation on behalf of another – this is a vital national conversation that needs to involve everyone, not just older voters. Let’s call time on the EU referendum generation gap to make sure this really is a truly national conversation.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] Representative poll of 1638 UK adults, conducted online between 20th-25th May. For full cross-tabs contact Josiah Mortimer (details above).

[3] [betterreferendum.org.uk]Better Referendum (contact Josiah Mortimer for more information) has being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).

 

Poll: fewer voters feel ‘well informed’ about EU referendum, even after Government leaflet

25th May 2016
25 May 2016

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Findings come as Electoral Reform Society and leading universities launch new tool to ‘liven up’ EU debate

For immediate release, Wednesday 25th May 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Polling for the Electoral Reform Society released today shows that the number of people who feel well informed about the EU referendum has gone down – even after the Government sent out a leaflet to 27 million homes making the case for staying in the EU.

The BMG Research poll [1], commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society, shows the percentage of people who said they’d been contacted about the EU referendum by leaflet rose from just 25% in March to 63% in the weeks following the government’s pro-EU mail-out to every UK household.

However, the polling also found that the percentage of people who said they felt well- or very well informed about the referendum actually fell from 23% at the end of March to 21% at the end of April, two weeks after the mail-out sent on the 11th April. The ERS points out that this lack of information is not for lack of interest, as the BMG polling shows 69% of people are ‘interested’ or ‘very interested’ in the referendum.

In addition, the research showed that the percentage of people who said that the Government were the most important source of information when making up their mind on the EU referendum rose by just two percentage points, from 8% to 10%, between the end of March and the end of April after the leaflet was sent out.

The findings come as the Electoral Reform Society and leading universities release a new online democratic tool for the EU vote, ‘Better Referendum’ [2]. The site will allow people to organise EU debates in their local area in the run up to the June 23rd vote, with the Society viewing it as essential that there is ‘a vibrant and diverse debate in communities across the country – not just one-sided leaflets’.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Leaflets are all well and good, but clearly they are not enough to create the kind of genuinely informed and engaging EU debate the public deserves - as this poll demonstrates. We need a dynamic campaign rather than just one-sided mail-drops – voters want to be able to compare information from both sides so that they know the full story.

“These findings show that voters’ need for an informed debate isn’t being met by the campaigns at present, and the Government’s huge leaflet drop appears to have had little effect. The lack of a well-informed conversation isn’t because people don’t care – 69% of people say they are interested or very interested in the referendum. So there is huge scope for creating a lively national conversation.

“As well as hearing the clear facts and arguments from both sides, we want to see a vibrant referendum debate - not just one-sided government leaflets but conversations in communities, colleges and workplaces across the UK about this crucial issue. That’s what got people out to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, and that’s what we need across the UK between now and 23rd June.

“Today we are launching a new online tool, ‘Better Referendum’, to give people both sides of the argument, presented clearly in one place. But more than that, people will be able to use the toolkit to debate the issues in their own communities. With younger voters at particular risk of missing out through under-registration or feeling under-informed action is essential.  Let’s liven up this debate from the grassroots up so that we have a referendum that actually inspires people to get out there and vote.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] Representative online poll of over 1,000 UK adults. For full cross-tabs contact Josiah Mortimer (information above) http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] See the Better Referendum website here (embargoed Wednesday 00:01):  http://www.betterreferendum.org.uk/

Better Referendum is being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).

Sheffield to host public launch of push to ‘open up' EU referendum debate

19th May 2016
19 May 2016

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Embargoed 00:01, 19th May 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Sheffield will host the launch of a new democratic tool to ‘open up’ the EU referendum next week [1], as campaigners seek to move the referendum debate ‘away from personalities and to policies instead’.

The event, ‘A Better Referendum – The Big EU Debate’, which will be held at St Mary’s Church & Conference Centre on Monday 23rd May – exactly a month before the referendum – will be an open launch bringing together dozens of people from across Sheffield to discuss the issues of the EU referendum debate – with campaigners from both sides and academics giving the full facts and opinion.  

It will be the inaugural launch of a new online democratic tool to bring the debate into local communities, ‘Better Referendum’ – as part of a project coordinated by leading universities including the University of Sheffield, and the Electoral Reform Society [2].

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“We’re proud to be launching our national campaign for a ‘Better Referendum’ in Sheffield. This event – the first of its kind – is a chance to hear all the arguments from both sides, from experts and citizens, and to discuss them in an open and innovative forum.

“The EU referendum debate has so been focused far too much on the personalities and internal party spats, rather than the real issues that affect people in Sheffield and across the country.

“It doesn’t have to be like this - we can have a vibrant and lively EU referendum debate, looking at the real issues: from health and education to the economy and immigration.

There’ll be great conversations, great free food, videos, votes, and short pitches from the main campaigns, so that people in Sheffield will have a chance to hear the arguments and have your say in an engaging environment.

We can cut through the spin and have a grassroots referendum debate that we deserve. Let’s have a Better Referendum.”

Professor Matthew Flinders, Professor of Politics and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield, said:

“This is a great opportunity to come and learn about the implications of the referendum in a friendly environment. With experts, videos and lots of opportunities to ask questions about a range of policy areas, this is a fantastic chance for people in Sheffield to engage with the EU debate.”

ENDS

[1] Members of the public can sign up to the event here for free: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-better-referendum-the-big-eu-debate-tickets-25377141714

[2] Better Referendum (contact Josiah Mortimer for more information) is being launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).

Campaigners welcome extending franchise for overseas citizens and call for votes at 16

18th May 2016
18 May 2016

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For immediate release, 18th May 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the government’s plans to abolish the time-limit on overseas citizens’ ability to vote [1], Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The government’s intention to abolish the time-limit on overseas British citizens’ right to vote is a welcome sign. This is a positive extension of the franchise that recognises that there is no time limit on citizenship and so there shouldn’t be one for the franchise either.

“Overseas voters – wherever they are in the world – are affected by UK government decisions, no matter how long they have been away – from pensions and benefits to foreign policy, travel and British embassies. They should have a right to vote on who makes decisions on their behalf when it comes to these and many more issues.

“In addition, the Electoral Commission’s voter registration drive among overseas citizens is as an important part of reaching the ‘missing millions’ of citizens not on the register, whether at home or abroad – something we have campaigned on as an organisation for many years. Though no one knows the true figure, there are around five million of British citizens living outside of the UK – yet just a tiny fraction are registered to vote, despite it now being easy to do online. Every citizen should be able to have their say, wherever they happen to be.

“As well as extending the franchise overseas, we want to see the government extend it at home too, to the 1.5m 16 and 17 year olds in the UK. Those educated citizens deserve a say in the constitutional future of their country – a major decision that will affect their lives.

“We know having votes for 16 and 17 year olds works -  they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the Scottish referendum, with 75% voting and 97% saying they would vote in future elections. Even those opposed to extending the franchise for the referendum now agree that they participated with enthusiasm and made valuable contributions to the debate.

“There is a widening gulf between people and politics which we can help reverse. Lowering franchise age is vital to nurturing more active citizens for future health of our democracy and we hope that, as well as opening up voting to overseas citizens, the government let 16 and 17 year olds – many of whom can already vote in Scottish elections – become active members of our democracy.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

[1] The time limit currently stands at 15 years. Link to announcement here (pp.62-63): https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524040/Queen_s_Speech_2016_background_notes_.pdf “Overseas Electors: The Government will legislate to meet the manifesto commitment to extend the franchise for British citizens living abroad to vote in UK parliamentary and European parliamentary elections. The Bill would enable British citizens who have been resident overseas for more than 15 years to continue to vote in UK elections.”