A recommendation by UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) would have no significant negative effect on how people intend to vote, and among Conservative voters actually grants a significant boost to the Leave campaign, new research has found. The findings directly contradict a common establishment narrative which holds that Farage is too “toxic” to lead the Leave campaign.
The research has been conducted by What UK Thinks: EU, a non-partisan research body which aims to provide impartial information on public attitudes to the European Union, as the UK heads toward a referendum on EU membership in 2017.
By polling 5,000 people using the YouGov polling site, and randomly assigning one of five different scenarios to each participant the researchers were able to ascertain the effect of different party leaders’ recommendations on how people chose to place their vote in the referendum.
“Overall, we do not find much evidence for the claim that Farage will make large numbers of voters more likely to vote to keep Britain in the EU,” the authors said.
“Compared to voters who are not exposed to a Farage cue, those who are given this treatment are no more likely to vote to Leave. Broadly speaking then, it appears that voters have already priced in the so-called ‘Farage Effect’.
“While the Ukip leader does not affect the overall outcome, however, there is some evidence that he has an effect among specific groups. When Conservative voters are told that Farage recommends a Leave vote, their support for Remain falls by 6 points.”
The four scenarios tested were: Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron recommending a Remain vote; Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn recommending a Leave vote, Jeremy Corbyn recommending a Remain vote, and Nigel Farage recommending a Leave vote. The fifth group was a control group, in which no leader was mentioned.
The polling also underscored how close the overall result will be – the control group produced a result of 50.6 per cent voting to remain, against 49.4 per cent voting to leave. Jeremy Corbyn was the leader who had the most overall influence, but even then only marginally: a recommendation by him to remain would see the results shift to 53.4 per cent in favour of remaining, against 46.6 per cent who would vote to leave.
The results skewer the establishment narrative on Nigel Farage, which claims that he is too toxic to lead the official Leave campaign. The narrative is being heavily pushed by Matthew Elliott, Farage’s main rival for leader of the official leave campaign, through his organisation Business for Britain – as noted by sketch writer Michael White at September’s Ukip conference.
Write wrote: “In the conference corridors Ukip’s Eurosceptic rivals in Business for Britain were quietly badmouthing Toxic Nigel as the kind of overambitious, political egomaniac who had weakened the Brexit movement in the past and might do so again.”
Business for Britain has now merged with two sister groups in the Conservative and Labour parties to create Vote Leave Take Control, a direct rival to the grassroots Leave.EU campaign which has the financial backing of prominent Ukip donor Arron Banks.
Curiously, the BBC last night pulled coverage of the research by What UK Thinks, which would have revealed to the British public just how close support for the Leave and Remain camps is. A segment on the report was dropped from the BBC’s flagship news program Newsnight just two minutes before the program aired.
Matthew Goodwin, one of the academics behind the report told Guido: “I am disappointed that despite promises of coverage a large survey, funded by a research council and relevant to the national debate, was shunted at the last minute with no warning.”
Newsnight bosses insist that the poll was pulled thanks to “timing issues,” but the decision to drop it comes just a day after the BBC’s news director James Harding pledged that the BBC will be showing fewer polling results. That decision comes as the Leave campaign enjoys a surge in the polls, fuelled by concerns over immigration and in the wake of job losses in Britain’s steel industry caused by EU over-regulation.
Insiders haven’t discounted the fact that Vote Leave Take Control has been leaning on the British media to not cover UKIP, Farage, or the Leave.eu camps.