So Daily Telegraph has now discovered that, on “Europe” it is a matter of “Don't know, don't care”. Its YouGov poll shows that 76 percent of respondents knew little or nothing about the draft constitution, with a further four per cent who did not know whether they knew anything about it.
But whose fault is that? For many years, the media and politicians have conspired to avoid talking about “Europe”, dismissing it as “boring”, while resorting to banal inanities and slogans instead of addressing the real issues. The many people who have been shouting from the sidelines about the importance of the issue have been dismissed as “nerds” or extremists.
To a very great extent, therefore, the chickens are coming home to roost. After years of neglect, when the referendum vote is of vital importance, the bulk of the British public have switched off.
However, this may also be because the referendum will not be for at least eighteen months, with people deciding that they are not going to get excited about something that is in the distant and indeterminate future. They are content to leave it to the “nerds” and the “clever-dicks” for the time being.
Nevertheless, there is some comfort in the poll which also finds that that, if the referendum were held now, 51 per cent of those questioned would vote “no” and 23 per cent “yes”, with 21 percent of “don’t knows”. But the more crucial finding is that those who plan to vote against appear less willing to change their mind than Yes voters.
Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, argued that the antipathy towards his treasured “Europe” is not because of any "entrenched Europhobia" among British people. It represented a failure to put the positive message about the EU and the constitution across.
Better informed people outside the Westminster village know different. “No” campaigners tend to be better informed than the “yes” camp. What this survey shows, therefore, is that those who are better informed are less likely to change their minds. In other words, contrary to the Europhile’s assertions, the more you know, the less likely you are to be in favour. Bring on the campaign!
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