EU referendum: Leave voters twice as likely to disbelieve facts and science

Polls find that people who support Britain leaving the European Union disproportionally deny mainstream science. But without a fact-based debate, the referendum could be decided on the wrong grounds, says Sindicatum Sustainable Resources chief executive Assaad Razzouk.

At polling stations on 23 June, about half of the people may vote for Britain to leave the EU.

You may well be one of them.

What may surprise you, though, is that according to an exclusive ComRes survey, almost half of your fellow Leave voters think the theory of evolution is questionable, while one in five doesn’t believe in man-made climate change.*

That should frighten you because it means that many Leave voters are wilfully choosing to disregard facts.

The ComRes survey also shows that Leave voters are 70 per cent more likely than Remain voters (36 per cent vs 21 per cent) to be against windfarms (though I presume they are fine with blowing off mountain tops to mine for coal for example), and 15 per cent more likely to support fracking on British soil.

So - to put it bluntly - if you are a climate change denier, sceptical about science and the theory of evolution, against renewable energy and for fracking Britain, you will have plenty of company in the Leave camp.

However, if you’re not comfortable in such company, you may want to re-think your position.

Facts are boring

Leave voters’ attitude to facts is part of the reason the Leave campaign continues to make emotive statements that aren’t grounded in reality: arbitrary allegations about Europe together with fear mongering tactics on security and immigration designed to draw on people’s visceral fears.

One of the highest profile examples came earlier in the month, when Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston loudly quit the Leave campaign because of its false claims that Brexit would free up £350 million a week for the NHS. Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, pointedly described the Leave camp’s claim as “misleading” and one that “undermines trust in official statistics”.

The UK statistics watchdog and the Treasury have urged Vote Leave to stop using this preposterous NHS claim which Wollaston branded “simply not true”, but the campaign has so far refused and for what now seems like a very good reason: As shown in the ComRes poll, Leave voters are less likely than Remain voters to be deterred by an appalling lack of fact-checking.

The problem with a debate based on facts is, seemingly, that it’s a little bit boring and unengaging. And that may be why the Remain campaign has seemed to stumble in recent weeks. Many of the latest polls show the Leave campaign several percentage points ahead of Remain.

By pounding the table with spurious arguments about unelected Brussels burdening us with regulations, the Leave campaign can avoid discussing facts and instead appeal to hard-wired instincts of English exceptionalism crafted over centuries to buttress the moral fibre of the Empire.

In the energy and environment sectors, for those who value a fact-based debate, it should be obvious that Britain’s energy security is strong because it belongs to a large EU bloc - and that cleaner beaches, drinking water and air all resulted from European rules which helped the UK shed its reputation as the “dirty man of Europe”.

Our European future makes us stronger on climate; stronger on renewable energy; stronger on science and, indeed, stronger on facts.

Britain’s energy future

Energy and climate change, however, have unfortunately not been major points of debate in the run-up to the referendum.

Part of the reason is that the topics require more than Trump-esque shouts for attention, which the Leave campaign has been disproportionately fond of, thus giving undue space to extremists peddling modern versions of the Roman Inquisition attacks on Galileo.

Serious topics require careful examination of the facts - and if we’d had such a fact-based debate, it would be clear to most that remaining in the EU is the best choice for Britain’s future and for the climate.

After all, as reported by David Smith of the Sunday Times, since Britain joined the European Community in 1973, its GDP is up 62 per cent in real terms compared with 42 per cent for France, 35 per cent for Germany and 15 per cent for Italy. Surely it wasn’t just English exceptionalism at play?

Our European future makes us stronger on climate; stronger on renewable energy; stronger on science and, indeed, stronger on facts.

Europe isn’t perfect, but it amplifies Britain’s voice on the global stage and ensures the country continues to prosper in partnership with its neighbours. Rather than leaving it, we should try to influence it more and indeed lead it.

The alternative is to sit on the side-lines together with the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world, in un-splendid isolation while practicing deceit in denying climate change and science.

If you instead believe that climate change is an existential threat to human civilization; if you believe renewable energy’s time has come; and if you believe in science and facts, get out to vote Remain on 23 June.

* ComRes interviewed a representative sample of British adults by telephone between 29th May and 5th June 2016, from which were drawn 809 adults who intend to vote to leave the EU and 809 adults who intend to vote to remain in the EU. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

 

Assaad Razzouk is the CEO and co-founder of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, a clean energy company based in Singapore, and an expert in climate and clean energy policy and markets.  This post is republished from Huffington Post with permission.

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