An exclusive poll conducted by BMG Research for the Electoral Reform Society has found that 34% of the public say that the BBC is the most important source of information about the EU referendum, with a further fifth of respondents indicating that newspapers are the most important source for helping them make their voting decision.
Almost the same proportion of people who view newspapers as most important to their decision rank family as the top factor, at 18%.
16% of people indicated that social media was the most important source of information on the referendum: the same proportion viewed friends as being the most important when it comes to making a decision for Thursday’s vote.
A closer analysis of these data however reveals striking demographic divides with regard to which sources of referendum information were considered the most important.
When asked to choose three options, just under a quarter (24%) of 18-24 year olds view the BBC as one of their most important sources of information, compared to four in ten (41%) of over 65s. A similar demographic split is evident when it comes to newspapers, with 29% of over 65s indicating that newspapers are their most important source of information compared to just 16% of 18-24 year olds. Further to this, 25% of over 65s view the Leave campaign as their most important source of information compared to 13% of 18-24 year olds.
33% of 18-24 year olds view social media as one of their most important source of EU information – yet the figure falls to just 8% for over 65s.
A gender gap is also evident, with women being far more likely to turn to family for information on the EU (23% compared to 13% of men). The proportion rises to 27% among 18-24 year olds, but is just 15% for over 65s. The over 65s group rely much less on friends when it comes to making decisions regarding the EU, with just 12% viewing them as a ‘most trusted’ decision-maker helper, compared to 23% of 18-24s.
When considering the party backgrounds of respondents, Conservatives are more likely to rely on newspapers – 25% of Conservative supporters compared to 20% of Labour supporters, while those intending to vote Labour rely much more on social media (23% compared to 13% of Conservatives). Only a quarter (25%) of UKIP supporters place the most trust in the BBC to provide their EU information, while just 4% see the government as most important for their decision-making. In contrast, almost half of those intending to vote for UKIP (48%) indicate that the Leave campaign is their most important source of information on the EU referendum.
Given that the results of these data suggest huge demographic divides and variable levels of trust in different information sources, the Electoral Reform Society argue that it is more essential than ever that all voters have access to comprehensive, independent resources on the referendum. They call for the public to use Better Referendum – an impartial online toolkit on the vote, featuring both official campaigns and independent experts discussing a variety of central issues.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “ While it is great that people are getting their information about the EU from a variety of sources, in these last couple of days it’s crucial that voters get the facts and opinions from both sides to help them reach an informed decision. The debate has been incredibly negative and left many still searching for answers to fundamental questions about the UK’s relationship with the EU.
“The big demographic divides in how people are getting their information shows that we need to do all we can to create a level playing field in these last couple of days, in order to ensure we’ve had a genuinely balanced debate with equal access to the views and facts. There’s a real concern that some voters will just be getting their views from whichever ‘echo chambers’ they are part of – and that we could have a decision based on one-sided information sources.
“Our Better Referendum tool aims to bring all the arguments and the facts on the big issues together and in one place. In this last couple of days, it’s vital that the public have all the resources they can to make a truly informed decision this Thursday.”
A press release based on these polling results, released by the Electoral Reform Society, can be found here.
Data tables containing a breakdown of these results can be found here.
Fieldwork information and methodology can be found here.
For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk
For any other results from our polling series, please feel free to get in touch with BMG by email or phone.
0121 333 6006
George Bascom – Junior Research Executive – BMG Research
Jemma Conner – Junior Research Executive – BMG Research