The worry with many referendums is that one side is fighting for a ‘yes’ result, and the other for a ‘no’ one. This therefore leads to one campaign fighting on a positive note; it is far easier to make the case for something when can sail on the waves of positivity. Barrack Obama’s whole ‘Yes, we can’ shows just how powerful a yes statement can be.
Look at the Scottish referendum last year. Those arguing for independence became the ‘Yes’ campaign, whereas those arguing for the union had to put a positive spin on their negative wording, starting with using ‘Better Together’, before adopting the ‘No, thanks’ branding.
Nonetheless, YouGov’s findings suggest that in the upcoming EU referendum people are not affected by the ‘Yes/No’ wording.
The polling company got two groups of people and asked them about EU membership.
For the group asked ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’, 43% said ‘yes’, whilst 36% said ‘no’.
For the group asked ‘Should the United Kingdom leave the European Union?’, 44% said ‘no’ and 36% said ‘yes’.
The results are almost perfectly mirrored suggesting that the wording will make very little difference. Even for the sub-sections such as the regions and gender the results are nearly mirrored (although less so due to smaller sample sizes).
However, Will Dahlgreen of YouGov points out that:
“Of course, the research has been conducted prior to the campaign – it's possible the value of positivity could come into play as the debate gathers momentum.”
This could very well be the case but will be harder to measure.
The results of YouGov’s polling are good news for democracy as the referendum should be a free and fair one. However, language is a powerful tool and with so much of this sort of talk with each referendum one wonders why voters are not just asked to put a cross next to the statement they most agree with.
‘The UK should leave the EU’ or ‘The UK should remain in the EU’.
The referendum should be an interesting one and it's good news that YouGov found no difference, but as Dahlgreen said: the value of positivity could change the game.
See the full results of the poll here.