Yesterday, the Electoral Commission recommended a change to the question to be put to voters in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. The Government is accepting the change.
Via the BBC:
The Electoral Commission said the wording proposed by ministers – “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” – could be perceived as biased to the status quo.
It has proposed adding the words “or leave the European Union?”
The government has said it will accept the changes although the final decision will be made by Parliament.”
“We are concerned that the question presently in the Bill is not sufficiently neutral. We agree with ICM that the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” suffers from “acquiescence bias” through the use of the word “remain”. The tendency to affirm is more instinctive than the tendency to reject and we observe that bias in related ICM polling.
In our view, if the question is to require a yes/no answer, then it should be the question provided in the Bill introduced by James Wharton MP: “Do you think the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?” This question has been considered and approved twice by the House of Commons.
However, we share the Electoral Commission’s view on the question wording “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” We believe this question is clear and straightforward for voters and that it provides the most neutral wording from the range we have considered. We prefer this question.
I am delighted the Commission has recommended these changes and I look forward to voting for the amendment next week.
It is vital the referendum is fair and seen to be fair so I very much hope we will make similar progress on purdah and spending by public bodies at all levels. We will see later today what exactly the Government proposes on purdah.