The result of the British referendum to leave the European Union seemed to come as a shock for most of the public opinion in the United Kingdom and abroad and many today compare the electoral surprise of Brexit – for the general public as well as for the pollsters – to the Presidential elections in the United States with the victory of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. However as many experts are wondering what people really think and what leads to such unpredictable outcomes: do we really know what is happening in our streets? How everybody could be so wrong about the result? It is important to remember that both the Leave and the Trump campaigners built their political success aiming at a small and very specific group of voters that helped them to win the argument (no matter how crooked the argument was and is perceived by its opponents), and in the case of the US elections, just by a handful of votes.
The British referendum, for instance, is a very peculiar case. In fact, Brexit was not that big of an issue in the public opinion before the Conservative party then led by Premier David Cameron decided to pledge to hold a referendum about the UK membership of the European Union. This decision was mostly motivated by political reasons: the Conservative party feared it was losing the support of its traditional constituency in favour of populist and nationalist movements such as the Ukip party. David Cameron himself was losing his grip on his backbenchers seduced by far right arguments. It was a bold move aimed to tame the anti-globalization and anti-establishment forces within the Conservative party and outside of it. To win the referendum would have been to silence them and stay in office.
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