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Disengagement trumps Boris, Cameron, and Immigration

In less than a month, the UK will decide whether or not to leave or remain in the EU.

Since the end of February, Populus has asked around 2,000 people each week to name the news stories or events they have noticed related to the EU referendum campaigns.

The results reveal that most people have not tuned in quite yet. Except for the last week of February and the last week of April, the most noticed EU referendum news story each week has, in fact, being ‘nothing.’ Between one third and two thirds of people each week say they can’t recall anything the campaigns have said, any events from the week’s campaigning, or personalities involved that week. Another reminder that in politics most people, most of the time, aren’t paying much attention.

EU TTMN so far

Only two events have resonated with a large proportion of people. The first was Boris Johnson’s initial announcement to back the Leave campaign (47%). Two months later interest levels peaked again, when Barack Obama visited the UK and made his remarks urging Brits to vote Remain and stay in the EU (45%).

Among the public that is paying attention, Boris Johnson, David Cameron and immigration are the three topics that make it in to the top five most frequently.

The former London mayor and outspoken politician has most frequently appeared as the most noticed. Besides his announcement to back Leave, his first major speech on Brexit and his controversial comment comparing the European Union to Hitler’s campaign to dominate the continent all captured the public’s attention.

On the Remain side, David Cameron has made it into the top five most noticed almost every week as well, but awareness levels for the Prime Minister’s involvement have hovered between 4-9%.

With the Leave campaign relying heavily on immigration arguments to make its case, the topic has also been regularly noticed by those paying attention to the campaigns so far.

The government’s official leaflets attracted attention from about one third of respondents right after they were mailed (26% the week of 8th April and 33% the week of 15th April), often about their £9.3 million cost rather than their content. But memories are short and as soon as the following week only 5% mentioned the leaflets.

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