For once, minds across the country are focused on politics.
Though the populace may be deeply divided about its resolution, polling shows that the Brexit question has united and sustained the public’s interest to an extent that is without modern precedent.
Populus polls 2,000 British adults each week to find out which news story, political or otherwise, the public have paid most attention to during the course of that week.
When political stories acquire continuous front page coverage there is no guarantee that voters take notice.
But for each of the past four weeks, over 7 in 10 British adults have paid more attention to parliament’s ongoing attempts to resolve the Brexit impasse than to any other story.
This proportion peaked at 85 per cent in the run up to the original deadline of 29 March, and included four in five of those aged 18-34 (normally the least engaged demographic).
By comparison, the historic result of the referendum itself reached 72 percent, while the 2017 general election attracted 60 percent at most.
Sentiment about the negotiations is hardening. More respondents month on month describe the UK’s attempt to leave the EU as chaotic, messy, and shambolic, with some now implicating parliament along with the Government.
Typical respondents summarise the latest developments as “farcical” and “boring”, and they “just don’t understand why parliament hasn’t solved it”. Other polling shows that confidence in the country getting a good deal is at an all-time low.
Yet more pressure was applied to the Government at the beginning of March, this time over police funding, following fatal stabbings in London and Manchester. Knife crime was only the third story of 2019 to get more than 20 per cent in our poll.
Even so, it did not surpass Brexit.
There has perhaps never been such a convoluted legislative undertaking followed for so long by so many. With no example to draw on and further twists likely, it is difficult to anticipate the precise impact that such an extended process may have on the public’s long-term attitude towards politics, even after an end is finally reached.
Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of at least 2,000 British adults aged 18 and over each week, and asked what news story they had noticed the most. The question was open-ended and participants could name any story.
Will is a Senior Consultant at Populus, where he advises corporate and public sector clients on their reputation strategies with key audiences. He leads projects analysing the views of the public, key demographic groups, and senior stakeholders. He works with charities, political organisations, and household names across a range of sectors.