On the referendum #12: new ICM poll shows 46-36 for staying in the EU; education, BBC, propaganda, Willie Munzenberg

ICM are going to be asking the referendum question regularly from now on.

HERE is their latest poll of 2,000 over 31 July – 3 August.

The headline figure is 46-36 for YES.

One of the interesting categories is Scotland which has 47-35 for YES. This is contrary to other polls that have shown much wider YES margins in Scotland. I wonder what the truth is about Scottish opinion.

Also note how ABs, better educated than other social groups, are 58:30 for YES.

Another interesting recent poll was done by Survation coinciding with the Farage speech / Arron Banks ‘in the know’ advertising push. The analysis is HERE. The numbers confirm the conclusions I sketched on public opinion last summer based on focus groups.

All the polls show that support for leaving the EU has fallen towards a core vote of about a third of the public. There is no doubt that the NO campaign is in a very difficult position. Some of those who want to leave have made some big errors and the establishment is largely united behind IN. Worse, OUT has become associated with an unattractive moral feeling. Better educated people tend to get their political views from feelings, mood, Zeitgeist and fashion, hence the success of the most brilliant propagandists – the Communists of the early part of the 20th century who dazzled large sections of the intelligentsia: see the career of Karl Radek’s frighteningly effective agent Willie Munzenberg (connected to all sorts of people from Hemingway to Philby et al) and characters such as Otto Katz, the NKVD agent who said ‘Columbus discovered America, I discovered Hollywood.’

It is a mistake to think that the better educated are ‘more rational’ in their political analysis; often they are less rational and more affected by fashion than the un-educated. They also run influential cultural institutions. Much of the techniques of Soviet propaganda (which became the basis for most of modern PR such as the celebrity letterhead) rely on one principle – how to overwhelm reason and humans’ capacity for objective analysis by creating a moral picture such that people send little moral signals to each other by their actions (like those well-educated people who signal each other by attacking the Mail on Twitter).

These phenomena are relevant to the referendum. As one famous BBC correspondent said to us during the euro battle, ‘The thing is we [the BBC] like cappuccinos and hate racists.’ Such feelings tend to overwhelm reason and leave people blind to things that ought to be obvious – e.g. that Delors et al created the euro in order to spark a great leap forward for ‘political union’ and its institutional structure was sub-optimal and risky when they created it (an argument that was perceived as near-loony by many at the BBC for years).

It has been conventional wisdom among the better-educated who control powerful cultural institutions that support for the EU is synonymous with being ‘modern’, ‘not racist’ and so on. This is despite the EU system looking in many ways extremely dated, palpably failing, transferring money from the poor to the rich and multinationals etc. My point is not at all that I am right about the faults of the EU; perhaps my arguments are poor. My point is that there is a morally and intellectually respectable argument that the EU is an outdated bureaucratic mess, built on very dodgy intellectual foundations by Jean Monnet, and supported now by trite soundbites about ‘3 million jobs’ that do not hold up to serious scrutiny – but that the history, ideas, arguments etc count for very little against feelings, and they often count least among the well-educated.

Changing this moral picture such that people think about the issues, rather than adopt positions based on moral signals and emotion, will be extremely hard for the NO campaign in the time available though I do think that the silent artillery of time will change it within a decade.

Ps. I should add that there are two strong emotions on the NO side, regarding immigration and contempt for political elites, which also can lead to faulty reasoning.

Pps. (Added later). Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s political editor, comments on Twitter that the above ‘may underplay possible Labour volte face.’ He is right. My impression is that the sight of the Bundesbank telling the Greeks to transfer assets to an offshore trust to be privatised by Germany has opened the eyes of some on the democratic Left to the deep institutional problems of the euro and the consequences of the push for economic and political union. However, this is a very recent development. Many on the Left have not thought seriously about the EU since Delors’ extremely clever speech to the TUC in 1988 which explained to the Left how the EU could be used to achieve permanent victory over their political opponents at a time when Thatcherism seemed dominant. Most political speeches are a waste of time. This is one of the few that really changed politics. Many on the Left decided to prioritise unravelling Thatcherism over democratic accountability as a consequence of this speech.

I hope that Labour does, as PW suggests, re-examine its uncritical support for the EU project particularly given it is now heading for yet another Treaty (between our referendum and 2025) based explicitly on the Delors model that will centralise much more power in Brussels in an attempt to prop the euro up and continue the Monnet/Delors vision (see HERE). There are some great Labour MPs, such as Gisela Stuart, who have challenged the conventional wisdom in Labour for years. Other figures in Labour, such as Blair’s speechwriter Phil Collins, really seem to believe the Foreign Office spin that ‘the EU is changing, the Monnet/Delors model is dead’ etc. The Foreign Office knows this is rubbish – the Five Presidents Report makes it untenable – but it is amazing how many intelligent British people choose to believe this time after time. I remember Mandelson saying exactly the same about the ‘Madrid Agenda 2000’ around the same time he was predicting the euro would be great for Ireland and Greece. Actually, this connects directly to the main point above about the delusions of the educated.

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3 thoughts on “On the referendum #12: new ICM poll shows 46-36 for staying in the EU; education, BBC, propaganda, Willie Munzenberg

  1. You should be aware that there was a big surge of negative feeling about the EU amongst the “left-liberal media class” (for want of a better term) during the latest round of Greek crisis, when Grexit seemed imminent. I saw quite a few people in that world writing long and agonised comments online, suddenly susceptible to any reasonable voice saying that the EU isn’t really what they should be supporting. Like Owen Jones was doing.

    So I showed these people a link to your latest post (the one with the videos of the Apple advert and Eisenstein, etc.)… and got an immediate negative reaction. I expect what your polls are showing is that the “what about Greece” anti-EU mood is evaporating away.

    The lesson is: it’s quite possible to build a winning coalition against the EU, there are plenty of left-liberals willing to reconsider. But they aren’t going to listen to the usual old bores mumbling about EU exit as the first stage in “getting our country back”, rolling back political correctness, etc. As long as that is the image and voice of EU-exit then it will be stuck in its 35% ghetto and never able to break out. Yet it could do that.

    What happened since Greece is of course the Calais crisis, which made remarks about “getting control of our borders” have a sour, unpleasant note.

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