Campaigners fear low EU ref turnout thanks to ‘toxic cocktail’ of high interest but lack of information

21st April 2016
21 Apr 2016
BMG Research
EU referendum
Better Referendum


Contact Tel: 
  • For immediate release, 21st April 2016
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The vast majority of the public are interested in the EU referendum – yet just 23% feel well informed, leading campaigners today to warn of the danger of a low turnout in June.

The polling by BMG Research [1] for the Electoral Reform Society [2] shows that over two-thirds - 68% - of the public say they are interested in the EU referendum (with 32% saying ‘very interested’ and 36% saying they’re ‘interested’).

Yet when asked how informed they feel, the BMG polling released today [3] found that just 7% report feeling ‘very well informed’, with 16% saying they feel ‘well informed’ – meaning under a quarter of people feel like they have a good level of understanding about the June 23rd vote. This is only slightly up on last month’s 16% overall [4].

The research also shows that lack of information could affect the numbers of people who turn out to vote. When asked ‘If you had more information about the main issues surrounding the EU referendum’ 23% said they would be much more likely to vote, while a further 16% said they would be ‘a little more likely to vote’ – showing around four in ten believe having more information would encourage them to turn out.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society [5], said:

“This polling shows that contrary to the popular narrative, the public aren’t bored by the EU debate – in fact, there are high levels of interest, with 7 in 10 saying they are following the conversation.

“Yet there is a real desire for balanced information from both sides – under a quarter of people say they have a good level of understanding about the referendum issues. The public feel left in the dark by an EU referendum debate that has so far focused largely on personality politics and internal party spats – more than the actual issues at stake.

“We are at risk of seeing a toxic cocktail of high levels of interest but a lack of balanced information in the debate. And that could lead to a low turnout for the referendum itself. The public need the facts, but all they are seeing so far is Westminster parlour games.

“The fact that a large proportion of the public say that if they had more information they’d be more likely to vote shows that the appetite is there to create a genuinely vibrant and well-informed EU debate.

“We will be launching our ‘Better Referendum’ resource next month, bringing together the arguments from both sides into one place – as well as allowing for extensive online debate, and the ability to organise public events through the website. We want to see the highest-quality debate possible for this crucial vote – the British public deserve no less.”


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

[2] www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

[3] Polling by BMG Research of residents aged 18+ in United Kingdom. The sample size is 1518 respondents. Cross-tabs available on request.

[4] http://electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/people-feel-left-dark-eu-referendum-debate

[3] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0. The ERS’ logo is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/co61g3209r2okcd/ERS%20Logo%20colour%20on%20white%20348%20x%20220.jpg?dl=0

The ERS will be releasing more polling on the EU in the coming weeks and months, including on:

  • How well informed voters feel about the upcoming EU referendum
  • How voters have been contacted about the referendum
  • What sources of information have been most important in helping them make their decision
  • How positive/negative voters feel the main campaigns have been
  • Whether the public would be more likely to vote if they had more information

The ERS have five recommendations for the referendum, for:

  • The Remain and Leave campaigns to commit to taking part in televised debates on the EU referendum
  • The campaigns to make voter registration a key plank of their plans
  • The campaigns to support initiatives aimed at giving citizens a chance to debate the issues in more depth, for example by providing speakers for local debates
  • The campaigns to commit to a ‘Ceasefire Week’, where both sides only put out the positive cases for their arguments
  • Media organisations, relevant public bodies and non-governmental organisations to commit to providing balanced coverage of the debate, including clear and comprehensible facts on Britain’s relationship with the EU

Find out more at: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/better-referendum