Brexit – the latest battle in the values war (Part 2)

In this series, CDSM data from the latest British Values Survey, conducted at the end of 2015, has been analysed to understand respondent opinions in relation to two opposing statements on a six-point sliding scale.

a) On balance, the UK’s membership of the EU is of
    benefit to society.

b) On balance, the UK’s membership of the EU is of
    detriment to society.

A first cut analysis showed that 43% of the 2,020 adult respondent base agreed to some degree that the EU was a benefit to society, and 57% agreed that it was a detriment.

At the time of survey the EU referendum was a low engagement issue, about which most people were not predisposed to strong opinions. The data outlined here should therefore be viewed as a benchmark – the place where British public opinion was before the referendum campaign brought the issue from the backbenches of the Conservative party to a national vote.

We have shown that a cohesive set of values underpins the nearly 30% of the population most likely to vote to 'Remain', with a different set of values for the 13% or so who feel generally positive about the EU but somewhat disinterested.

Now it's time to look at the potential 'Leave' voters - that 57% who agree that the EU is a detriment to society.

Though the base level of agreement is different between the two options - the 43% 'Remain' to 57% 'Leave' - the percentages within the range of opinion are remarkably the same for high and middle levels of agreement – those most likely to turn opinion into votes.

High level of agreement
Middle level of agreement
Slight level of agreement



As many of the opinion polls are reporting during the first weeks of the official campaign, voting intentions are very tight and neither side has much of an advantage. This seems to be illustrated by the state of opinion on a low engagement issue five months prior to the poll. With approximately 30% agreeing with both ends of the scale (60% total) and 40% not interested very much either way it is likely that the 'slightly agree' component of either ilk will have a heavy influence on the final vote.

It is important to decision makers, when planning a campaign of any sort, that they understand the strengths and weaknesses of various options they present.

A useful measure in campaign planning is a values analysis of potential supporters - those predisposed to a positioning who can be transformed from supporters to voters. Here's the 'Leavers' Maslow Group profile.

High level of agreement
Middle level of agreement
Slight level of agreement





The figures for high levels of agreement that the EU is primarily a detriment show that Settlers are more than twice as likely to hold this opinion as the rest of the population – Settlers make up 25% of the population and account for 50% of the respondents to this option. This is the heartland of support for the Leave campaign – their Hard Core. Both the other two larger Maslow Groups (37% Prospectors, 38% Pioneers) index below average.

Getting the Hard Core out to vote won’t be that difficult - but their votes alone will not be sufficient, especially in a high-turnout referendum. However, if the turnout is low and only the most engaged vote, this small Settler-driven group could have a big influence on the final result.

The middle level of agreement is slightly larger (16.9%) and although the Settlers have a similar index to the Prospectors (117-118), the larger numbers of Prospectors in the population leads to them having the most numbers of people within middle level supporters (44% to 29%). This means that a campaign with a Settler-driven base and some version of a Prospector appeal could be strong enough to retain people with this predisposition.

These two levels of agreement contain about 50% of all those who are of the opinion that the EU is more of detriment than a benefit. The role of campaign strategists would be to whip up their emotional engagement to vote to leave the EU in June.

That's the easy bit!

The more difficult bit is to 'turn on' the 27% of the population that slightly agrees with the opinion. It is important to understand the Maslow Group profile of this group because this is the area that is likely to have most ‘leakage’ - to be open to persuasion to change their 'weak' opinion into a vote for the Remain position, even if their support is only slight.

The strategic implications for the Leave campaign are enormous as almost 50% of their potential support is in this 27% of the population with weak commitment – a bigger target than for the Remain campaign, whose 'slight support' is a much smaller 13.5% of the population.

The values set of those with high levels of agreement – the Hard Core - looks like this.

HARD CORE negative about EU membership.

The Terrain Map shows that Hard Core Leavers have a very coherent potential supporter base among the Settlers – just as the data table has shown. Among the Settlers, Brave New World is just over two and three quarters times more likely to support a Leaver platform (index 279) and Roots is just under that figure at 270. This support is very different than that of the Remainers shown in a previous post. The very low index for the Pioneer Transcenders at the bottom of the map (19) indicates a support for this option that is 81% below the national average.

This is the degree of divergent opinion between Settlers and Pioneers that creates conditions where issues within society move beyond simple differences of opinion. A divergence this wide often causes non-comprehension of the views of others and, where there is some comprehension, a fear or loathing of the other's viewpoint. This is where the potential for a Values War lies. The Settler Maslow Group has proven to be fertile ground for populist political movements for centuries – often pitting one group of Settlers against another. With the rise of the Pioneers, since the mid twentieth century, this dynamic has been used by authoritarian movement leaders to attack more libertarian ideas and values associated with Pioneers.

The Contour Map provides a deeper insight for analysts and decision makers and illustrates on which of the 108 Attributes of the British Values System they over-index. These indices can be used to frame campaigns, communications and events that will increase the engagement of their supporters. The over-indexed Attributes highlight the nature of the differences between potential supporters of the two campaigns.

Potential Remain campaign supporters are more inclined than the general population to support traditionally liberal factors like POVERTY AWARE, JUSTICE, GREEN INTENT, ADAPTABLE and GLOBAL. Meanwhile, potential Leave supporters have a list that over-indexes on SCEPTICAL, DISCIPLINE, WHIP, NATIONAL PRIDE, COASTING and SHANGRI-LA.

A quick thumbnail sketch might profile these Hard Core Settlers as proud people who disbelieve most 'experts' or those who say they have answers; who believe in punishing those who transgress the rules – and who long for a time when life was simpler and issues were black and white, yes or no. Life is a series of battles against dark forces trying to change things all the time and the only way to survive is to lower expectations of winning, roll with the punches, take small victories when they come and seek the protection of a strong leader. For the most part they see themselves as the only people left who value tradition and if push to comes to shove they will defend the past more than they will push for the future.

The next level of potential Leave support – Fair Weather Friends – retains the Settler support but finds its core in the Prospector Golden Dreamers.

FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS (but negative about) EU membership.

Once again, there is a lack of traditional liberal Attributes as the more traditional and moralistic Attributes (Discipline, Patriarchy and Religious) are joined by a modern and divisive set - supporting Big Business as a benefit to society; believing it is natural that society is dividing, and accepting that there will be 'haves' and 'have nots'. Other associated over-indexed Attributes show that this orientation could quite easily attract supporters of a more judgemental and potentially more violent nature.

Together these two levels of agreement about the effect of the EU on UK society are quite coherent – supporting each other – with a significant fringe that are more negatively judgemental of other points of view, subscribe to relatively simple pragmatic rules and perceive others unlike themselves and their friends as 'outsiders' and potential enemies, rather than just people with a different point of view.

Though cohesive and fairly easy to 'stir up' on issues like immigration, national sovereignity and protecting the past, this grouping still makes up only about 30% of the population - very likely not enough to win an election when the Remain campaign is potentially supported by the same numbers of people but with a completely opposite point of view.

It is therefore essential for both campaigns to understand the opportunities to retain or attract potential supporters who are only slightly interested in the issue – the 40% of the population that is unlikely to ever be very engaged with the issue but whose vote may swing a close election. When presented with the 'facts' in the June referendum their most likely response will be "Am I bovvered?”

The Remain version of slight support was seen to be quite chaotic in a range of beliefs, as measured by over-indexed Attributes. Those who would slightly support a Leave campaign – over a quarter of the population (27.0%) - are similarly chaotic and, as the Terrain Map shows, even more focused in the Prospector area of the map.

Even more significant is the emphasis in the middle of the map where many people exhibit less systemic values driven behaviours, changing them in a manner that can cause bedlam in lifestyles.

AM I BOVVERED? (but still negative about) EU membership.

This group is also under indexed in the Pioneer Transcenders – about 40% below the national average.

For those who prize relative stability and ordered change this 27% of the population present some quite frightening orientations. These potential supporters for a Leave campaign have a set of over-indexed Attributes that can be seen in other developed countries – from Poland and Latvia to France and the United States – to lead to violent rhetoric and confrontations between supporters of opposing points of view. Be aware that these are symptomatic of skirmishes in a Values War.

The top over-indexing Attributes include a range of violent beliefs including:

  • CATHARSIS (a belief that violence is just a part of life and that sometimes the use of violence can clear the air).
  • FORCE (believing that it is acceptable to use force to get what you want).
  • SIMMER (the thought of civil disorder excites them, up to and including being involved in a street riot).
  • Aligned with PATRIARCHY, these values, if prompted by a strong leader, could lead this group to exhibit anti-social behaviours they would deem justifiable, even if illegal.

The final most significantly over-indexed Attribute is BUDGET BEDLAM. This is quite central in the UK map, so not important by itself but, aligned with the other Attributes among this group of people, it can be used as a 'trigger and bridge' issue – something to fire off connections with other issues. In this case it would be easy to link their personal economic problems with other orientations, which could lead to anti-social activities and small scale acts of civil disorder – actively performed by a small minority, but passively accepted and supported by a far larger group. With the urging of perceived 'strong leaders', they can be mobilized to turn their anger into ballots, but the campaign to engage them is fraught with danger to political and cultural discourse and the body politic.

  • 57% of the British adult population believes to some extent the EU is detrimental to UK society.

  • Settlers comprise almost 50% of this orientation’s Hard Core supporters.

  • Golden Dreamer Prospectors are the largest single group within the Fair Weather Friends – which is a combination of Settlers and Prospectors.

  • 27% of the population believes (to a lesser degree than Hard Core or Fair Weather Friends believers) that the EU is a detriment.

  • This 27% is a huge target for the Remain campaign – but the values espoused by the group are very different, and antagonistic to the core values of the potential supporters of the Remain campaign.

  • The core values of the "Am I Bovvered?" group have a real potential to spark off anti-social behaviours if the leaders of the Leave campaign use inflammatory language and images to demonize the Remain campaign. Any civil disorder that may arise will not be primarily political but an excuse to raise some hell by the younger supporters - but is likely to be condoned by older supporters if it does occur. Leaders of the Leave campaign will need to stir up their potential supporter base, and the method they are likely to use to gain higher engagement, and likely voting behaviour, is through the creation of a threat or threats to 'the British way life'' and the desire for a return to a 'Great' Britain - and a 'Greater Britain' in the future.
    This is a dangerous road if the power of such rhetoric is not properly understood.