Can Brexit help us do well in the election?

Opposition to a cliff-edge Brexit will be one of the defining messages for our party in the upcoming election. Will it work?

It can – but it needs to be handled well.

That is the message from a recent analysis that we have conducted looking at over 10 million Brexit-related tweets between November and April. Over that period, pro-Brexiteers have been overwhelmingly more successful than those who are opposing Brexit or opposing a hard Brexit. Why?

The pro-Brexiteers use effective, emotive language while anti-Brexiteers have a fondness for complex, rational arguments that have little resonance. Pro-Brexiteers are much more active on social media accounting for 66% of all activity over the period we have analysed. They also have clear leadership that is single issue focused.

Our analysis provides a guide as to which sorts of communications are most effective in galvanizing the anti-Brexit community. And it can work. The last few weeks have shown a dramatically rising trend in anti-Brexit social media activity (see chart). The question is whether that can be sustained and turned into votes for our party. That will not be achieved by continuing with the same arguments and the same approaches that characterized the failure of the Remain campaign – and seem to continue to characterize current social media activity around opposition to Brexit. It requires new approaches and new thinking.

Can we do it in the time that is left?

* Joe Zammit-Lucia is a co-founder and trustee of the think tank and a Lib Dem member

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Richard Underhill 2nd May '17 - 12:08pm

    Twitter is continuing to lose money and is dependent on the confidence and patience of its investors, despite Donald John Trump’s insomnia. The claimed author of “the art of the deal” might be challenged by Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, with reference to the Louisiana Purchase. He was capable of brief and punchy comments.

  • There have been at least two polls stating that Tory remainers will stay Tories regardless. I think we’re operating on a false premise if we simply think these people will simply drop into our lap; they fear letting Corbyn’s Labour in by the back door much more than they do a hard-brexit…

  • Alan Depauw 2nd May '17 - 12:26pm

    The detailed analysis is fascinating. The recommendations for the anti-Brexit camp seem to imply co-ordination between the various parties and key personalities involved. Is this feasible?

  • I agree with Alan Depauw. Every Liberal Democrat who uses twitter and wants to change opinion in favour of the Tory’s having a reduced majority in Parliament should read the full report.

    It sets out three areas for tweets:
    Messages that undermine government competence which must have clear evidence and events;
    Evidence of actual economic harm caused by Brexit (forecasts are no good);
    Appeals to British values, pride and effectiveness on the international stage underpinned by actual events.

    Please read the report of examples.

    Can we capitalise on the hotspot of anti-Brexit in north-east England?

  • I keep saying and asking, where are our policies. Banging on about Brexit is a waste iof time, the public know where we stand or have a good perception of where that is. What they do not know is what we are saying about the Economy, Education, NHS, Immigration, foreign affairs, North Korea etc etc etc………. This is a general election and to date we are going nowhere. Come on, stop leaving everything to Labour and start to offer that claimesd alternative government to the Conservatives, so far we have failed to do so..

  • Andrew Tampion 3rd May '17 - 5:05am

    I agree with theakes. It’s now 9 months and more since the referendum. If going on and on about the alleged horrors of Brexit was going to gain significant votes then it would have happened by now. In fact our poll ratings are about 13% unless you believe the Opinium/Observer Poll on Sunday which puts us at 8%. A new approach is needed with a wide range of policies to demonstrate that we are not a single issue campaign group. Also unless we are develop policies that address Leave voters legitimate concerns and address the EU’s failures then by appealing to Remainers alone then we are just deepening rather than ameliorating the divisions that the referendum revealed.

  • Paul Murray 3rd May '17 - 7:32am

    @Andrew Tampion – actually the most recent @britainelects polling average (on April 30th) put LD support at 10.6% and more recently it seems to me that the direction of travel has been a slight decline. Certainly, there currently appears to be no momentum towards the Lib Dems.

  • Peter Watson 3rd May '17 - 7:49am

    @theakes Yes, yes, yes!
    The Lib Dems have been treating this election campaign as a rerun of the EU referendum campaign with the same strategy, and we know how unsuccessful that was.
    It sometimes looks as though the Lib Dem strategy is motivated more by an attempt to boost the party’s own position, demonstrating a Lib Dem recovery by aggressively using a single-issue as bait to fish for votes within “the 48%” (which would be misguided if the 48% have concerns other than Brexit) and which, ironically, might make it less able to influence Brexit or offer an alternative to a Tory majority.

  • Paul Murray 3rd May '17 - 8:57am

    In the last few minutes since I posted my comment above, @britainelects has updated its polling averages and the Lib Dems are now on 10.3%, which supports my anecdotal perception that the party is flatlining or sliding. Of course a polling average is by definition a lagging indicator so it remains to be seen if yesterday’s ICM 8% is an outlier or a trend.

  • John Harvey 3rd May '17 - 9:15am

    I’m bored already. This is surely one of the worst ever starts to a general election campaign ever by the Lib Dems. Does the party hierarchy really think there’s nothing to say apart from Brexit? What about the Middle East/North Korea, what about the environment, what about small businesses, what about taxation, what about…..I thought these were central to our cause. Also, it’s all very well having new members, but what are thy doing? I’m in a small village in Somerset and I haven’t seen a Lib Dem campaigner for years. How can we win these seats if no one’s talking to potential voters? The talk of the Lib Dems gaining seats is piffle. I can see the Tories walking this one and people like me – and many of the new joiners – leaving the party simply because we’re fed up.

  • Nigel Jones 3rd May '17 - 11:22pm

    In North Staffordshire this past couple of weeks, there have been questions raised by voters who in the past were inclined to vote Labour, hate the Tories and are not Ukip supporters. They say they despair of Labour under the current leadership; some suggest they find no one to vote for; some suggest they might have to vote Lib-Dems, but hate doing so. In the latter category one is quoted as saying because of tuition fees, another because we entered coalition with Tories, another simply because the feeling is we cannot be trusted.
    This needs to be addressed by our message and strategy in a way that does not go back over arguments about the coalition. So maybe we need to talk about policies that can help those in need of help, not just the few, such as Education and Housing, as well as emphasising that leaving the single market would damage our ability to deal with these matters.

  • This Remain strategy is flawed.

    1 The lib dems won Richmond not because of Remain but because Zac Goldsmith called am unnecessary by election. Don’ t expect that result to be replicated.

    2 in Lib Dem target seats you generally face an electorate which voted Bexit or a seat with a sitting Tory Remainet.

    3 Left of centre voters will NEVER return to the party because of the Coalition

    4 Tory Remainers won’t vote Lib Dem because you spent all your time in Coalition and since – rubbishing it!

  • Just been out knocking on doors. One possible supporter said he wanted to vote for the Lib Dem candidate but he disagreed with us on Europe so he just couldn’t. I tried to explain it’s a good idea to vote for an MP who will actually fight the corner of local people….and as we are not going to be in Government anyway our views on Europe won’t count. Not an orthodox approach – but he was wavering!

  • No for the General Election! As elsewhere on LDV (including my recent blog) I question the wisdom of focusing quite so hard on Brexit as a vote winner.

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