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

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.

Trump and May's Brexit speech loomed large in a poll of what news struck the diarists, writes Deborah Mattinson
Trump and May's Brexit speech loomed large in a poll of what news struck the diarists, writes Deborah Mattinson

This week, events the other side of the pond dominated when voters told us which news stories had struck them most.

All things Trump topped the news poll, and our diarists’ also noticed the Italian avalanche, the Tunisian killings inquest and British holiday makers’ exodus from the Gambia.

But, following Theresa May’s speech last week, Brexit has now moved up into second place – its highest position since the diaries began.

Many had watched the speech, or its coverage on the TV news, and most – leavers and remainers alike – were pretty positive about what they had seen, describing May’s performance as ‘genuine’, ‘committed’ and ‘outward-looking’: "A Prime Minister in charge."

Several remainers told us that they felt Mrs May had provided the sense of direction that the debate had been lacking so far.

Some claimed to be pleasantly surprised "Actually, I loved it" said one, and another commented: "It uplifted my expectations."

The Prime Minister’s speech also seems to have positively impacted on her own personal brand, with diarists describing her as "strong", "dignified" and "bold".

However, one point to note – while there was broad support for the destination she outlined, there was a clear concern about how achievable that destination is, and what process would be necessary to get there.

As ever, when discussing issues of public policy, many of our diarists wanted more information on the ‘how?’.

One diarist spoke for many when she commented: "I was left wondering how she intends to make all this happen."

Given these views, our diarists’ scores tracking the main party leaders’ performances over time show Theresa May with an expected lead over Corbyn among leave voters.

Less predictably perhaps, she now also enjoys a small lead over Corbyn with 'remain' voters.

At best, diarists feel he lacks clarity – "I’m just not sure where Corbyn is on all this" – and at worst he is thought to disregard the public’s views: "Immigration is what people are most concerned about, but Labour are too arrogant and not listening at all".

There is no room for government complacency, however.

Many of our diarists, however they voted, remain worried about what the future holds, and describe the Prime Minister’s position as "difficult", in a "very complex" situation.

While leave and remain voters are in broad agreement on their views about the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, this fragile consensus starts to falter when we asked for their views about each other.

Leavers describe remainers as "naïve", "misguided" and "London middle class", and remain voters described leavers as "racist", "fed up" and "low paid", suggesting that the bitterly divided nation highlighted by the EU Referendum has not yet healed.

Deborah Mattinson is a partner at BritainThinks


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