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Are we all experts now?

Are we all experts now?

Much shock, even horror has been expressed about the British electorate’s decision to ignore the procession of experts that told them they must vote to Remain in the EU. However, few have asked why they did it? Gillian Tett of the FT wrote recently that “nobody is going to put this genie back into the bottle. We all need to think about what creates the bonds of “trust” in today’s world. And recognise that the 20th-century model of politics, with its reverence for experts and fixed parties, may eventually seem as outdated as restaurant guides.”

Lots has been said and written about Brexit much of it based on speculation and inference. Arkenford is an evidence based consultancy, we seek to base our insight and recommendations on robust analysis of our client’s data and their customer’s perspectives. Therefore, we thought amongst all the hype we would give our panellists a chance to express in their own terms why they voted as they did and what they think about the future.

We ran an open survey running from the 28th of June to the 1st of July asking 1000 members of our QArk panel:

  • What were the most important issues that influenced their vote
  • Who they trusted most during the campaign, and
  • What they think will happen now.

Data was weighted to reflect the outcome of the referendum and the socio-demographic pattern of voters.

Was the vote based on heart or head?

  • Two thirds of all voters said they felt very certain about the way they wanted to vote.
  • Remain voters were more likely to claim they voted based broadly on a ‘knowledge of the arguments’ 66% compared to Leave Voters 51%. Among those that were ‘very certain of their vote’ an even higher proportion did this 73% & 62%.
  • An approximately 40% said their decision was entirely knowledge based.
  • Only 11% of Leave voters and 7% of Remain Voters believe they based their decision on ‘gut feel’ and despite the confusion and chaos following the vote fewer than 3% say they would now change their vote.
Proportion of voters who felt certain about the way they wanted to vote

What did voters base their opinion on?

So what was the role of experts in the debate? There is a dramatic contrast between Remainers and Leavers. While those voting for remain say they were influenced by, on average, 6 of the sources we asked about Leavers only acknowledged 4 sources. The contrast is even more marked when comparing strong influences.

Sources strongly influencing voters opinions

Experts played a role among Remain votes, about 20% say that economic experts, big businesses and remain politicians strongly influenced their decision. These were the most influential sources for remain voters.

In contrast not many Leave voters say they were strongly influenced by anyone not even Leave politicians. The strongest influence was the ‘EU’. As the ‘EU’ tried to say as little as possible during the campaign this is unlikely to refer to the EU itself, but rather what was said about the EU. Indeed, the media and social media was full of posts and counter posts about ‘what the EU has done for us’ and posts in support of an alternative Brexit view.

So where did voter’s knowledge come from, just over 1 in 10 of us were strongly influenced by the economic experts? Perhaps for leavers, their rejection of many expert sources was a response to the weight of expert opinion, polls and social media chat which seemed strongly pro-remain. Like in the last general election a silent majority simply kept their own council until able to express their vote. What is certain is that the experts entirely failed to measure the mood or convince a majority. In a world in which user comment and user ratings for everything from hotels to washing machines is increasingly the most trusted source for consumers is it little wonder that scepticism is spreading to our politics. Better knowledge of what your customers really think is more important than ever.

FT Why we no longer trust the experts
What has EU done for us