EU Referendum – The Broadcaster Debates. Which Politicians Should Make The Case?

Ahead of June 23rd’s EU Referendum, the major broadcasters are likely, as in the General Election to be holding several events where the respective cases for Leaving or Remaining in the EU will be put to the public. The BBC have already announced a detailed program of events.

Unlike other news outlets, the BBC exists to serve the public interest, and one of the public purposes set out in the BBC’s Royal Charter is “sustaining citizenship and civil society”.  In order to ffulfilulfil this purpose, the BBC is required to give regard to the “need to promote understanding of the UK political system” – as such, the BBC has announced three key events ahead of the EU Referendum.

Young Voters – Addressing Alienation From Politics

The BBC’s first EU debate of significance is being aimed at young voters, often disconnected from the political system – in a much as their likelihood to cast votes in elections – in programming hosted by Victoria Derbyshire  from Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday 19 May.

This disconnection as we’ve shown in detailed research – for Lodestone Communications was presented as evidence to the House of Commons Committee on Voter Engagement which published the findings in 2014. The Committee took evidence from many experts, including from the BBC’s – their former Head of Political Programming, Sue Inglish and Ric Bailey – the Chief Political Adviser at the BBC.

Question Time – The One on One

Then a week before polling, on Wednesday 15 June, David Dimbleby will moderate a special edition of BBC One’s Question Time programme, featuring one senior advocate from each side.

The Big One – Wembley Arena June 21st

Finally and perhaps most significantly, just 2 days before voters go to the polls the BBC are holding a major public debate event at the 12,500-capacity Wembley Arena hosted by David Dimbleby, Mishal Husain and Emily Maitlis.

Considering the format of this key event, Survation understands that the BBC, in order to provide a broader debate than a 1-1 as with the Question Time special have planned to involve, among others 2 politicians to debate the case for Leave and 2 politicians on the stage to debate the case for Remain. Which leaves the difficult question – which two politicians do the public think would be the most suitable to represent the campaign to Leave or Remain in the EU?

Survation have conducted polling added to our UK online omnibus to consider the question and today announce the details of the results showing the public’s view in consideration of the Leave campaign.

Asking: On Tuesday 21 June the BBC will host a live, televised debate at London’s iconic The SSE Arena, Wembley on the issue of Britain’s membership of the European Union. The debate will feature senior politicians and other key figures on both sides of the argument. There will be 2 politicians debating the arguments on behalf of the “Remain” campaign and 2 politicians representing the “Leave” campaign.

Of the following politicians, which 2 of those listed do you think would be the most suitable to represent the campaign to leave the EU.

Survation showed respondents 12 politicians associated with the campaign to leave the EU. And possibly unsurprisingly, when limited to 2 Politicians, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were the clear favourites among the public for suitability.

Of the 2040 respondents, after removing the 29% who said  “don’t know” to making two selections (perhaps representing the difficulty or lack knowledge of political characters and the 8% those who only picked one politician from the list of 12, the results of the 1466 respondents choosing two politicians were as follows:


EU Debate

BBC EU Debate Poll, Survation 04/05/2016


Politically, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were the clear leaders among current Westminster Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP and other party supporter and also the preferred choice among Westminster undecided voters.

By a small margin of 6%, only current Conservative voters preferred a “blue & blue” pairing  (who would likely face in debate at least one Conservative representing Remain) – opting for Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green Iain Duncan Smith as their 2nd most popular choice. The BBC may be unlikely to wish to present, as a neutral organisation a pairing that might risk making the Wembley event seem like an internal Conservative Party squabble.

The full data tables, including the views broken down by a forced choice “Leave or Remain” crossbreak can be viewed here.

  • The survey was conducted by online panel, differential response rates from different demographic groups were take into account.
  • Population Sampled – All residents aged 18+ in the United Kingdom
  • Sample Size – 2,040
  • Data were weighted by age, sex, region, household income, education and past vote. Targets for the weighted data were derived from Office for National Statistics 2011 Census data and the results of the 2015 General Election.
  • Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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