Royal baby overshadows Brexit

Even in today’s climate, May was a blockbuster month for political news, with two sets of consequential election results, cross-party Brexit talks, and the prime minister’s resignation. But did the public follow these developments, and if so, which ones?

Populus polls 2,000 British adults each week to find out, asking them to name the story they have noticed most.

On the whole, these events did cut through. Last week in particular was dominated by politics but it was the European elections, not the resignation of Theresa May, that people focused on most.

These elections produced a historic low for the Conservatives and Labour, in no small part as a result of their position on Brexit. It was around nine months ago that the public first started to tune in to Brexit in very high numbers, and as I wrote for Red Box at the time, that level of attention increases the potential for volatility in voters’ attitudes. We are now seeing that volatility play out.

Even when not much is happening, Brexit continues to run up a solid baseline of recall, peaking at 36 per cent this month following Theresa May’s inability to advance her withdrawal agreement bill. A similar proportion (33 per cent) paid most attention to the local elections.











Strictly speaking through, the single most noticed story of the month was not a political one. The birth of Harry and Meghan’s baby attracted a higher share of attention (46 per cent) than any other story, which the cancellation of the Jeremy Kyle Show was noticed by exactly the same proportion as the unsuccessful cross-party Brexit talks the same week (24 per cent). For most people, politics is not normally the most interesting dish on the table.

These, however, are not normal circumstances. With a new prime minister on the way and a hard deadline in place, we can expect the level of public attention paid to Brexit in the coming months to ratchet up once more.

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 Clothier

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.