The Brexit Diaries - Week 4: Nobody has changed their mind and that gives us valuable insight

PRWeek has partnered with insight and strategy consultancy BritainThinks in a unique project to take the temperature of both leave and remain voters in the run-up to triggering Article 50.

The Brexit diaries contain a subtle warning for the Government, writes Spencer Livermore
The Brexit diaries contain a subtle warning for the Government, writes Spencer Livermore

The Brexit process is about to enter its most political phase so far, with MPs voting on whether to trigger Article 50.

This is a good moment to take the temperature of our Brexit diarists – 100 people from across the UK, 48 who voted ‘remain’ and 52 who voted to ‘leave’.

Has anything happened to change their minds? If the Referendum were held again tomorrow, how would they vote?

Interestingly, out of all our respondents none had changed their minds – with one exception, a diarist in Northern Ireland, perhaps reflecting the specific and contentious issue of a hard border.

Overall, their original reasons for voting remained valid, and very little has happened to heal the divide.
But this week’s Brexit Diaries contain three important insights for all communicators.

First, don’t assume the public think the same way you do.

Our diarists’ views on Donald Trump are a typical example. While many in ‘the liberal elite’ will assume a widespread dislike of the new President, our respondents believe he is "a very astute guy" who is "a bit of an Anglophile, loving all things British".

These views were formed from Theresa May’s visit to Washington and pre-date Trump’s travel ban.

But while Westminster rightly condemns this, we shouldn’t assume such a clear-cut view will be reached elsewhere in the country.

Second, don’t assume the public are as engaged in the detail as you are.

The Supreme Court decision on Parliament’s role in triggering Article 50 generated blanket media coverage and all our diarists saw the news.

However, few pored over the detail: "I really don’t know a lot about it, I just thought everyone had to agree".

Third, don’t assume traditional media no longer matters.

It’s remarkable in the diary entries of our ‘leave’ voters to see the Brexit-supporting media’s coverage played back: "A bad day for democracy and the judges should not interfere", wrote one diarist.

"How can they put the brakes on this, it’s what the people wanted", said another. "The people voted and the courts should listen".

The Brexit Diaries also contain a subtle warning for the Government and for politics in general. It’s clear from the response of our ‘leave’ voters that expectations of Brexit remain sky-high.

They see a trade deal with the US as a certainty and unquestionably good for the UK: "there is vast trade to be done with US"; "any trade for Britain is good".

And they continue to believe that Britain’s trade with the EU will be unaffected by leaving the Single Market: "I don’t think trade with the EU will be lower after Brexit"; "I don’t think there will be issues with trade deals, look at Switzerland".

Not only have the divisions in the country not been healed, but the government continues to feed these expectations.

When compromises have to be made, or if the outcome is less than hoped for, voters are going to come down to earth with a bump, and no preparation has been made for that.

Spencer Livermore is a partner at BritainThinks

More:

BritainThinks Brexit Diaries, Week 3: Trump & May dominate the news poll for diarists

BritainThinks Brexit Diaries, Week 2: Communicating effectively with leave and remain voters

BritainThinks Brexit Diaries, Week 1: Voters start the year with a warning to the Government

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