Brexit, Broad Space and Deep Time

Well under six weeks to go yet the public seem to be unenthusiastic about June 23rd. Both sides are almost neck and neck in the polls with around 14% undecided.

What is staggering is the lack of a street presence or any campaigning energy from either side in the debate. There are very few posters. Perhaps one or two local debates planned in most areas. Minimal presence in the High Street. Most of the debate seems to be happening on tabloid terms, that is, without much intelligence being applied. People have either decided or are waiting for the killer punch from one side or the other.

Tease out more detail from the polls and some trends start to show themselves. Just over half of Tories appear to be Leavers, less than might have been expected historically but many nationalist Tories have switched to UKIP. On the other hand, around a quarter of Labour voters want Lexit (Left Exit from the EU). Anecdotal social media comment suggests that this includes a lot of people who are otherwise natural Corbynistas. The policy coup mounted on the Labour Left a few months ago has left many on that side of the Labour Party unnerved and wondering what precisely is going on.

UKIP and Liberal Democrats have less undecided voters and large majorities for their respective Leave and Remain stances but, surprisingly, around a quarter of Liberal Democrats appear to be Leavers so we have a significant centre-left vote unpersuaded by the usual liberal-left suspects. There is not a great deal of difference across England but Scotland is strengthening its Remain position (we discussed this in our posting on The English Question). The surprise is Wales which has seen a recent surge in both Leave intentions and UKIP support, giving a 3 point lead over Remain.

Except in the two main parties, Leave is very slowly improving its overall position which may explain the firing of some big guns by establishment big-wigs in the last ten days or so. Nor is there much difference between men and women although women are nearly twice as likely to be undecided. The middle classes are certainly moving more in the Remain direction, probably rattled by all the economic propaganda from that camp, but working class votes give a lead to Leave and, in case you had not noticed, there are always more 'poor' people than 'rich' people.

The big divide is generational. The young are polling for Remain at nearly four to one over Leave (amongst those with a position) and becoming stronger in their convictions. Older voters are staying fairly static at something like two to one for Leave over Remain. Why is this? We do not discount the changes that saw strong pro-European messages appear in recent years in the educational system but it is also down, we think, to a generational difference that emphasises global universalism ('broad space') over the older generations' sense of 'deep time' both backwards and forwards.

The questions for the next few days are: will the Tory Government's 'strategy of fear' burn itself out? will Team Corbyn's engagement in the referendum turn the tide of working class scepticism? will the increasingly serious political problems in the European Union finally begin to seep into the consciousness of voters in the next 30 days? will undecided women trust the Prime Minister or not? will Scots Unionists start to think more like the Welsh? will the Leave campaigns finally pull their fingers out? The balance of prediction remains a Remain vote but this is by no means certain.


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