Source: Ian Leslie, author of “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It,” and writer/presenter of BBC R4’s “Before They Were Famous,” in “New Statesman,” June 7
The golden rule of politics is that most voters don’t care about politics. Everything follows from this first principle.
Since most voters don’t care about politics, and don’t want to have to care about politics, they vote for the option that presents the least hassle, the least risk, and the least politics.
This immediately makes the sovereignty argument irrelevant, and possibly counter-productive. People are not longing for more democracy, because more democracy sounds suspiciously like more politics. And even the Brexiteers cannot conceal that the process of untangling ourselves from the EU will take years. That’s to say, it will involve more politics.
Opinion polls can hardly help but over-sample people with opinions. Many voters will put off having an opinion until the last minute, and when they do they will look for the option that involves the least thought, and the least risk, possible. That usually means sticking, not twisting. Historically, referendums tend to show late swings to the status quo.
There is no powerful countervailing drive to “do something.” To state the obvious, this referendum was not called because of some great national upswell of anti-EU sentiment. Despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail, most people do not feel assailed or constrained by European bureaucrats in their everyday lives. To most people, the EU is an abstract, faintly comic entity, good for the occasional joke about odd shaped fruit, but that’s it.
Many voters are opposed to immigration, and this is where the Leave campaign or campaigns is/are, quite sensibly, focusing. But, as Atul Hatwal shows, immigration is more bark than bite: most voters who think immigration is an important issue for the nation don’t think it is crucial to them and their families.
Once you see that this is really all about the economy, and that most voters use their vote to minimize risk and hassle, then you’ll see why I’m confident about a win for Remain.