EU Referendum

Electoral Commission's Consultation

In 2015 after the May election the electoral commission[1] issued a consultation.  The consultation sought views as to what the question ought to be when the UK Government polls UK residents on the question of staying in or leaving the European Union.  The issue relating to what the question ought to be was heavily influenced by the Scottish referendum.  Pursuant to section 1(2) of the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013[2], the question put to the Scottish public was: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”.

 

Pursuant to Schedule 1 the only answers available on the voting form was "Yes" or "No".  It is alleged that the use of a positive answer ("Yes") and a negative answer ("No") the poll heavily influenced people, who tend to want to be positive.  Please see the official page to review that referendum[3].

 

So, the electoral Commission ran a consultation regarding what question should be posed in the UK's referendum on staying in or leaving the EU[4].  I am proud to say I made a submission.  My submission is showing at the bottom of this page below the reference resources.

 

The Electoral Commission's advice to the Government[5] as to how the wording should be set out on the referendum poll is as follows:

 

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

 

Remain a member of the European Union

Leave the European Union

 

I am delighted that the view of UKIP (and me) is the view that prevailed.  I do not have the stats on this, but would suggest that the Yes/No that the Scots were subjected to was inherently unbalanced.

 

The Full Report can be found HERE[6].  The Commission's previous testing on the referendum question is also worth a read[7].  The data on why a questions important can be found by clicking HERE[8].  The report says that the submissions made are available on its website, but I cannot find them anywhere on their website.  Please email if you know to find them.

 

Resources:

 

[1]

[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2013/14/pdfs/asp_20130014_en.pdf

[3] http://scotlandreferendum.info/emb/

[4] http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

[5] http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/upcoming-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/eu-referendum-question-assessment

[6] http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/192075/EU-referendum-question-assessment-report.pdf

[7] http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/163282/EU-referendum-question-assessment-report.pdf

[8] http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/introduction/researchproblem

 

My submission to the electoral commission on the question and answer for the UK referendum concerning the UK remaining a part of the EU or leaving the EU:

 

Date: 15 June 2015 at 19:13

Subject: EU Referendum Question

To: ReferendumQuestion@electoralcommission.org.uk

 

Dear Sirs

 

I refer to your request for views on the issue of the wording of the EU Referendum.

 

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/upcoming-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/eu-referendum-question-assessment

 

I am responding in my own right, but should add that I am a UKIP member.  I fully support UKIP's response to you, but would slightly amend it.

 

The question for inclusion in the bill is as follows:

 

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”

 

You have invited views on this.

 

For the exact same reasons as submitted by UKIP, I find this wording to be biased toward the Yes vote.  I do not think that the question as posed is fair.

 

I also find that the use of Yes and No is also unfair, as there is a bias towards Yes, because the majority of people would vote positively rather than the negative connotations associated with no.  I note that your October 2013 findings state that this would not effect the outcome, I believe that there is a possibility that it would cause a statistical change.

 

As a consequence of this, I believe that the referendum bill should pose the question as noted in your option 2 in your October 2013 report.  In my view the the question should be:

 

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

 

And the two responses should be:

“Remain a member of the European Union” and “Leave the European Union”

 

By having a question that is neutral with a response that is not directly associated with negativity or positivity (No/Yes) you are providing a referendum that is not logically biased in favour of any one answer or against another.  I also believe that it would be less likely for someone to misunderstand what response they are giving, as yes/no may, for some, fail to clearly define what response they are giving.

 

As noted in the UKIP response, in order to meet the terms of s. 104(2) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 you must also consider whether the question, as framed, is intelligible.  As noted, I do not think that "yes/no" is unintelligible I just think it has the potential for a confusion in the response, whereas the response above (“Remain a member of the European Union” and “Leave the European Union”) provides absolute clarity both in the question and in the framing of the answer thereby removing any possibility of a voter failure of understanding.

 

My second option would be as set out by UKIP.  The referendum question should be neutral and say:

"Should the United Kingdom be a member of the European Union?"

And the answer would be yes/no.  That question shows no bias either way, and neither does the response.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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