The UK has a referendum next year on whether or not to stay in the EU. The Electoral Commission held a consultation inviting responses. I'm one of only two academics cited in the report. The other is Professor Matthew Turner of Warwick University.
The Commission notes the proposed language for the referendum in the European Union Referendum Bill: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?"
I am quoted in the report at 4.19 (on page 28):
"Another key factor that explained concerns about this [e.g., neutrality] was the use of 'no' to represent a change. Professor Thom Brooks of Durham University was concerned about the lack of consistency when compared to previous referendum questions:
[Quoting me:] There is a convention that the answer "no" should be reserved for a verdict of no change - and "yes" for a verdict of change. The problem with the current question is that a "yes" vote is a verdict for no change. This is inconsistent with referendums on AV nationally and on independence in Scotland".
The outcome? The Electoral Commission agrees that the wording should be changed to better ensure neutrality. They propose:
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
The answers will not be Yes or No, but "Remain a member of the European Union" or "Leave the European Union".
While I was not the only voice arguing for these changes, I'm absolutely thrilled to see this. Result! Now let's hope the final vote is worth celebrating, too....