Will Project Fear swing the EU referendum in favour of the Remain campaign?

Lacking a positive message, pro-EU campaigners have painted a pessimistic picture of Britain outside (Source: Getty)

Tom Mludzinski, director of political polling at ComRes, says Yes.

Negative campaigning works. Voters may say that they don’t like it, but the reason it is employed by campaigns is that it does succeed in influencing the outcome. Negative messages tend to stick in the minds of voters more sharply. A campaign must not be solely negative but – and this is especially true in a referendum – it is an effective tactic. Status quo options tend to have an advantage in referendums because voters are often reluctant to jump into a change – unless they believe things are so bad that it can only get better. While there is a hard core of voters at both ends of the spectrum that are immovable, the onus is on the Leave campaigners to overcome the fear, uncertainty and doubt that many non-committed voters have about voting for a change to the UK’s EU status. Remain currently leads in the polls as Leave is yet to convince enough voters that being outside of the EU will be better for them.

Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, says No.

The run-up to the EU referendum is starting to feel like a showdown between fear and fatalism. Lacking an inspiring case for why we should stick with the Brussels oligarchy, the Remain campaign deals in doom instead, attempting to scare voters with tales of post-Brexit economic collapse and plagues of locusts. On the other side, some Brexiters are too fearful about this Project Fear, fretting that it will mind-warp voters into being pro-EU. Enough. We need some optimism. Those of us who love Europe but oppose the EU, who reject Brussels precisely because we trust ordinary people over bureaucrats, must make a positive case for popular sovereignty. Let’s win the masses to a Brexit with stirring arguments for democracy, for the right of people, not faraway, finger-wagging suits, to shape their nation’s destiny. We have an amazing chance to transform political life for the better. Let’s enthuse people about that. Let’s combat fear with ideals.

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