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ICM test finds that stay has an 18% lead when the proposed EU referendum question is asked

June 2nd, 2015

But other formats less good for YES

ICM used a split sample in its online test and put three different options the first one being that inlcuded in the referendum bill.

Split sample Q1: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?
1. Yes
2. No
3. DK

Split sample Q2: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
1. Remain a member of the European Union
2. Leave the European Union
3. DK

Split sample Q3: Should the United Kingdom leave the European Union?
1. Yes
2. No
3. DK

This is what ICM’s Martin Boon writes under the heading Deconstructing the proposed referendum question wording

“..The first piece of evidence relates to so-called “acquiescence bias”. The tendency for people to yea-say with something is more instinctive than it is to reject it. The proposed referendum question clearly state that we are already members of the EU, and asks pointedly whether we should remain so. In short, it asks people to acquiesce with the status quo, and that probably helps. Indeed, it was for this reason that many unionists criticised the UK government’s acquiescence to the SNP’s preferred Scottish independence referendum question wording (where the positive response was framed as Scotland being an independent country rather than staying in the UK).

More than that though, the question also points to the fact that we are ‘members’ of the European Union. True enough, but being a member of something is usually ‘nice’ – we make a choice to join something because we believe there must be associated benefits otherwise why would we already be in? It’s a cozy, warm thing to be, a member of something, like the golf club, mother and toddler support group, gym, political party – whatever your preference. It’s hard to conclude that this use of phrasing is superior or more neutral than asking, say, whether we should “stay in” the EU.

Somewhat confusingly, the question is also very much about what it doesn’t mention. It doesn’t provide balance (we could ‘leave’ the European Union too, you know), and it certainly doesn’t offer the possible acquiescence bias from the opposite perspective, much to the chagrin I imagine, of UKIP-type thinking…”

No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot about this debate in the coming weeks and months.

Mike Smithson