Research by the University of Twente and I&O Research has shown that the opponents of the EU Treaty with the Ukraine have the lead. The referendum on this matter will be held on 6 April. If the referendum had been held in January, it is expected that 56% would have voted against and 44% would have voted in favour of the treaty. These figures have received a lot of media attention. However, researcher Martin Rosema claims that the results obtained about how the referendum has been ‘framed’, are far more interesting.
The campaign is yet to gain momentum and that could lead to significant changes. Rosema says: “Roughly one in three of those who plan to use their vote say that they have not yet decided whether to vote for or against the treaty. So both sides still have a chance to win votes.” According to Rosema, the analyses of voters’ motives are particularly interesting.
More or less European Union
The research shows that contrary to what is often believed, voting preferences are much more strongly related to citizens’ opinions on the European Union in general than to how the public feels about the incumbent government. “Citizens who are sceptical about European integration and do not want enlargement of the European Union will vote against the treaty,” says Rosema. “This means that the initiators have been very successful at ‘framing’ the referendum in such a way that it is now all about ‘more or less European Union’. This way, they are actually two steps ahead of the treaty’s proponents as anti-European Union expansion sentiment makes it harder for proponents to influence the outcome of the referendum in their favour.”
Rosema’s research shows that opinions on Putin’s Russia have almost no effect on how people intend to vote. The kick-off for the ‘yes’ voters campaign was this week and it will become clear in the coming weeks whether or not it will be enough to sway voters. The researchers will be studying this in the coming months. The research report can be downloaded via a link on the I&O Research website. De Volkskrant has an article about this research on its front page.