Which campaign techniques engage voters best in the EU Referendum campaign?

Heléna Barnett-Lonergan discusses the findings of our Referendum Engagement Index

Pureprofile, on behalf of Weber Shandwick, has published a ‘Referendum Engagement Index’ based on new public opinion research of 1000 UK voters. We interviewed voters from 27th May until 3rd June in order to determine the attitudes of the British Public in the run up to the EU referendum. One of the main aims was to measure the different forms of engagement and how these have shaped the voters perception of the referendum during the campaign so far.

The research has provided some interesting insights and this is what we discovered….

We looked at three main aspects regarding different forms of engagement – what voters thought the main way of getting their attention would be, what the actual experience of voters has been so far and to what extent these forms of engagement have actually influenced the great British public in terms of how they plan to vote.

The research found that the medium of TV and radio reports is hugely important in giving us information on the Referendum with nearly two thirds (62%) of voters agreeing that it’s likely to grab their attention. Second most likely to grab voters’ attention is friends and family expressing their views, followed by the TV and radio debates (55%) that have been taking place over the past weeks also grabbing their attention.

Interestingly, a number of the most favoured campaigning strategies, such as doorstep canvassing (15%) and outdoor advertising (18%) aren’t grabbing the voters’ attention as much as other channels. However, even taxi drivers and pub landlords are likely to get some voters’ attention as 6% of voters said they would be interested in what they had to say.

When asked which channels voters have actually experienced over the past two weeks, it comes as little surprise that voters have absorbed information on the referendum either through TV or radio reports (55%) and friends and family expressing their views with half agreeing (51%). Those infamous leaflets and letters which we have heard so much about are showing they’ve been worth the financial investment with 51% of voters saying they have personally experienced them in the last few weeks too.

When it comes to social media, a quarter of respondents (26%) reported that they’ve experienced news and information on the referendum via Facebook where, in contrast, only 7% said they’d experienced information via Twitter and 5% via other social media. Interestingly, more voters reported experiencing information via Facebook (26%) than traditional methods such as posters/outdoor advertising (12%) campaigners on the street (5%), doorstep canvassing (3%).

Looking at how well these channels have influenced voters, 51% of those who’ve experienced TV/radio debates agree that it’s been influential to their views. Of those who have experienced online news articles 48% agreed that they have influenced their views and print news has been influential with 46%.

What is interesting is that 40% of those who have experienced news and information about the referendum via Facebook agreed that its influenced their views whereas only a quarter of those experiencing the traditional medium of leaflets (27%) and outdoor advertising (26%) said that their views were influenced. This is possibly an indication of how influential social media (and Facebook in particular) may become in the future when it comes to swaying voters opinions.

In terms of the issues that are of importance to the UK voters, the NHS/healthcare was the most important issue with 92% of the voters agreeing. The UK economy was second most important with 90% and 4 in 5 (80%) voters agreeing that both defence/terrorism and education were of high importance. Perhaps surprisingly, the issue of immigration, which has been portrayed as the key issue in many media channels, is the 5th most important issue.

When we asked the respondents whether they planned to vote “leave” or “remain” on 23rd June, 40% of respondents said that they would vote to remain a member of the EU, 46% said that they would vote for a Brexit with 14% still undecided at this stage.

It’s clear from the results that younger voters are keen to stay in the EU with older age groups more interested in leaving. Over half of the 25-34 year olds polled said that they would like to remain in the EU and 25% said that they would like to leave. This age group is also the most undecided with 17% saying that they don’t know which way to vote. Over half (56%) of 45+ year olds want to leave with 60% of 65+yr olds opting to exit the EU verses 29% opting to stay put.

Regionally, the capital is keen to stay in the EU with 49% voting to remain and 40% voting to leave. Those in the East of England are interested in leaving with 57% of people opting to Brexit. Scotland is pro remain with 58% against 34% to leave and Wales is also looking like they will vote to remain with 41% agreeing to stay, however, it is close, with 39% saying that they’d like to leave the EU.

It is becoming more and more apparent that this Referendum will go down to the wire and with 15 days to go looks like it could be one of the closest votes in recent times. It’s likely it will be influenced by two factors…

Who will go out to vote on the day?

Historically the older generations are more likely to vote, however, there is a big campaign to get the younger generations out to the polling stations. In the last month 1.65million people have registered to vote with 226,000 on Monday this week and 525,000 yesterday. As I write, Downing Street is considering granting extra time to register to vote after the registration website crashed last night due to ‘unprecedented demand’. Of the 525,000 who registered yesterday, 302,000 were under 35. It looks like the EU Referendum is capturing the attention of the younger voters. According to our, and other, polls this could make all the difference.

How the ‘Undecided’s’ will vote

With over 1 in 10 agreeing that they are still undecided this group could be all the difference to sway the vote either way.

Heléna Barnett-Lonergan is the Business Development Director at Pureprofile. To get more information please contact helena@pureprofile.com or visit http://discover.pureprofile.com/prmedia-insights-uk