EU referendum is a political Rubik’s cube for entrepreneurs

European Union referendum
iStock/Xavier Arnau
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At JournoLink, we speak with hundreds of startups and small businesses, and quickly came to the conclusion that even normally focussed, savvy entrepreneurs were greatly troubled by indecision on whether to vote Brexit or remain in the upcoming referendum on 23 June.

In response we created a polling tool at EU Decision to help business owners decide which side of the leave or remain divide their attitudes and responses to five sets of questions indicated they belonged.

The results have been instructive and eye opening. Over 10,000 respondents had used the site within 48 hours of it going live with 200 completing the test per hour. While not a stratified sample, we are seeing a marginal lead for Leave with the result too close to call and wanted to dig into why this might be the case.

Rubik’s cube

The referendum campaign has thrown up more data and opinions than virtually every other political campaign before it. Much of the information is complex and interlinked. The issues in trade, the economy, immigration, governance and even defence have knock-on effects on each other and can’t be taken in isolation.

For example, issues of immigration impact economic growth, which in turn affect the budgets available for public services and governance. Issues of governance affect how our national budgets are set and our trading access to European markets, which in turn have profound impacts on our economic growth. Defence issues impact governance, borders and immigration, so clearly no one item can be looked at on its own; this is a political Rubik cube.

Experts in conflict

To make things worse, qualified experts are making conflicting statements in support of one side or the other and the tone of the debate has been increasingly vitriolic leading to accusations of scaremongering and spin levelled at both camps.

The tragic slaying of Jo Cox MP, a Labour Remain campaigner, on 16 June in Yorkshire highlighted just what a pressure cooker the campaign has become. Never has it been more important to identify the key threads of the arguments for and against leaving, so that voters vote on more than a gut-level feel of what is right for them.

The results so far

Our opinion identification tool has thrown up some high-level results of what respondents feel and believe. Overall the ‘Leavers’ are marginally in the lead with a 4.8% majority over the those planning to vote Remain.

The complex links between the issues show up in some of the seemingly self-contradictory results of the polling. While a small majority (48%) believe ‘Europeans should be able to live and work anywhere in Europe without restrictions’, against the 44% who disagree, eight out of 10 of the same group believe that “Britain should say who comes into Britain to work”.

On the economy, around a third of respondents simply do not have a view on whether Britain could negotiate better trade deals as an EU member or outside of the EU. Similarly, a third could not make their minds up on whether the economy would be more stable with Britain in Europe or out, and neither did they have a view on whether red tape stands in the way of British business.

Conclusions

A few observations stand out from results at EU Decision and the responses to it via our social media feeds.

  • Despite the volume of information available on  Government sitesinstitutional sites, and from the leave and remain campaigns voters are still confused and campaigners have everything to play for
  • The vote Leave campaigners seem more vocal and aggressive with their campaigning. This may be a possible indicator that they are very strongly motivated and likely to turn out to vote on the day
  • Voters should be wary of reductive campaign statements, which attempt to lead them to a point of view by painting what are grey issues as simple black and white ones
  • Voters need to weigh up the relative importance of issues on Governance, Economics, Defence, Trade and Immigration to themselves. There will be trade-offs to make because every choice in politics has a price attached
  • We cannot yet say whether or not the undecided will suffer “Scottish Referendum syndrome” where a large undecided group decide on the day, in the polling booth, that they would, after all, go for the status quo rather than rock the boat
  • It is known that older voters are likely to vote Brexit, while younger, millennial voters are more likely to vote Remain. If younger voters who are the natural constituency of the Remainers stay away the Leavers will poll an advantage

Much will depend on the motivation to get out and cast your vote. Yes, the campaigners have it all to play for.

Readers can take the test at EU Decision and see where their views position them.

Tetteh Kofi
Director
Journolink
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