In the immediate aftermath of the murder of British MP Jo Cox, the conventional wisdom was that the Brexit side would suffer since the murderer was a super-nationalist nut.
But a new survey out in Great Britain today — the first since the Cox murder — shows a precipitous drop in support for Britain to remain in the EU.
Qriously, a London-based technology start-up that gathers data and intelligence about consumers through mobile phone apps, found that backing among likely voters for Britain’s EU membership has dropped to 32% from 40% before her death.
The poll was based on 1,992 British adults surveyed on June 13-16, and then 1,002 on June 17 — the day after Cox was shot and killed in northern England. The start-up claims to have held the first such survey on the topic since the lawmaker’s slaying. Most of Qriously’s surveys are done for corporate brands and it has not been previously conducted an EU referendum poll.
Respondents were asked: “Imagine the EU referendum were held today. Would you vote for the U.K. to remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union?” They were given three options: “Remain in the EU,” “Leave the EU,” or “Don’t know.”
Qriously found that 52% will vote to leave the bloc in a national referendum on June 23. The figure is unchanged from before the parliamentarian’s death. The weakening support for remaining in the EU coincided with a large move toward “Don’t know,” which leaped to 16% from 9% before Cox’s assassination.
Britons are split over whether to leave the political bloc, but a series of recent polls — all conducted prior to Cox’s death — have shown the Leave campaign gaining ground in the closing stages of the race. Political analysts have expressed uncertainly over how Cox’s killing would affect the vote. She was an ardent EU supporter.
The ebb and flow of public opinion on any issue is difficult to quantify. The founder of the online poll company YouGov, Stephan Shakespeare, believes that the style of campaigning will change more than opinions being altered.
“What tends to happen when you have an event of this kind is that the voices of those who feel they are affected by something become quieter. They don’t change their minds.”
Shakespeare said that the Leave campaign “will have wanted to go very hard on the immigration issue in the final week of the campaign and may find it hard” to do so now. “The Remain camp doesn’t really need to be more polite because it doesn’t want to talk about immigration. It wants to talk about the economy, where it is much stronger,” he added.
The 7-point jump in “don’t know” respondents appears to correspond with the 8-point drop in support for “Remain.” Perhaps that reflects an unhappiness with the status quo. Elites in Great Britain have been scaremongering about the dire economic consequences of a Brexit and most ordinary Britons resent the pressure. They are very worried about losing their ancient, national identity and blame the EU for lax immigration policies and a loss of national prestige.
If the referendum were held today, it’s likely that the “leave” camp would win going away. But it wouldn’t take much to flip the results if just a few percentage points of voters change their minds between now and June 23 when the referendum is held.