So, according to the front page of today’s Daily Express, the EU referendum result is already done and dusted and Britain has decided to leave. Really?
Yes, a majority of voters want Britain to quit the EU, if the results of a poll by Survation are to be believed.
(Readers here will remember that last month the Sun newspaper commissioned Survation to do a poll and subsequently ran an entirely untrue front page story claiming that 1-in-5 British Muslims ‘have sympathy for jihads’).
Claimed the Daily Express on their front page today:
“Fifty-one per cent of people who expressed a firm opinion in a survey of more than 10,000 adults across the country supported exit from the European Union.”
Please look at the sentence above again. It is, actually, a classic example of how numbers can be twisted with clever words.
On first glance it may seem from the Daily Express report that just over half of those 10,000 people polled favour exit from the EU.
But actually, the Daily Express sentence didn’t say that at all. It said only that 51% of people who “expressed a firm opinion” want Britain to leave the EU.
It’s a convoluted and misleading way to present numbers. Let’s look at the facts.
Survation asked 10,015 people in an online survey the following question:
‘Imagine there was a referendum today with the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” How would you vote?’
- 40% said they wanted Britain to remain a member of the European Union (-2 since the last poll, which is statistically insignificant and within the margin of error)
- And 42% said they wanted Britain to leave (+2 since the last poll, which is statistically insignificant and within the margin of error)
So where does the 51% figure come from? Well, 51% represents just over half of all those who provided either a ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ answer.
But many could be forgiven for thinking the Daily Express ‘51%’ meant that just over half of 10,000 people polled wanted Britain to leave the EU.
That seems to be what Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU party, UKIP, wants people to believe. In a centre-piece article in today’s Daily Express – a major funder of UKIP – Mr Farage concluded from the poll:
“This new landmark poll of 10,000 people showing that the ‘leave the EU’ side is now ahead demonstrates that the tide has turned.”
There’s something much more interesting about the Survation survey that doesn’t get a mention on the Express front page, and is only briefly referred to at the end of their story.
It’s this: many Britons haven’t yet made up their minds about the country’s future in the European Union.
Almost a fifth – 18% – of those surveyed by Survation responded that they were “undecided” on whether or not Britain should remain a member of the EU. Furthermore, that figure hasn’t changed since Survation’s previous poll on the EU referendum question last June.
That almost-a-fifth-of-voters-who-are-undecided could dramatically and decisively swing the EU referendum result one way or the other (so long as they actually vote). And as yet, nobody, not the Daily Express, not Survation, and not even those voters themselves, yet know which way they will vote.
So rather than the EU referendum result being decided, done and dusted some two years before it might take place, the referendum decision is right now completely undecided. Despite today’s Daily Express headline, the referendum result is far from being ‘in the bag’.
This means that for both sides of the referendum campaign, there is everything to play for. Especially since we don’t yet even know when the referendum will take place, and neither the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ campaigns have yet started in earnest.
And although today’s Daily Express editorial asserted, “Among people who have already made up their minds a majority now want us to leave the EU…”, there’s something that should never be forgotten:
In a democracy, those who have made up their minds today, can change their minds tomorrow.
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Related stories by Jon Danzig:
- Daily Express business model: selling prejudice and bigotry?
- Are some newspapers stirring up trouble?
- The value of being ‘citizens of Europe’
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— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) December 15, 2015