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Yes or No, Let the People Decide: The EU referendum.

In social circles politics can be a taboo subject, but I suspect it may have crept into a few discussions as of late. Some of which, may have been about the public’s upcoming decision to either remain, or leave the EU. Recent research by the Electoral Commission has raised queries about whether the phrasing of the question “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?" may influence voters and sway their decision.

So, is this a farfetched cry, or political correctness taken too far? Research would indicate not. Designing research that takes into account people’s tendencies to be affected by social desirability. Social desirability simply explained, is when people act in away deemed socially acceptable, rather than how they would usually behave.

With this in mind, it has been argued that the validity of the final decision may be questionable, if given in response to the question in its current state (BBC, 2015). Thus, with what could be seen as a loaded question towards remaining in the EU, and the common psychological phenomena of social desirability, it is possible that undecided voters may lean towards remaining in the EU.

Currently, a rethink of the question is being debated with the suggested alternative, "should the United Kingdom Remain a member of the European Union or Leave the European Union” (BBC, 2015)? The alternative question has been argued to be a neutral question which would increase the credibility of the final referendum; something that cannot be taken lightly.

This story highlights the importance of the caution that must be exercised when wording research questions to explore human behaviour. As questions that may appear to engender genuine responses, may influence people’s behaviour and undermine the accuracy of research.

By Alex Richards

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This entry was posted in Politics, Research, Social , tagged Polls, Government, Referendum , European Union, Social desirability and posted on September 7, 2015

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