On June 23, British citizens will vote whether they will remain or exit the European Union. It’s a delicate issue that has reaped political havoc with Britain’s Conservative Party. It was partially responsible for the defeat of John Major’s government prior to Labour’s 1997 landslide that ushered in Tony Blair into 10 Downing Street. Fears of European instability are being debated ahead of the scheduled vote. In February, it was made known that President Obama would try and lobby the United Kingdom to remain in the EU. He also penned an op-ed in The Telegraph, stating that it’s in the UK’s best interest to remain in the EU on April 23.
"Let me be clear, ultimately this is something that the British voters have to decide for themselves," Obama said at a news conference alongside David Cameron, delivering a boost to the British Prime Minister's bid to safeguard U.K. membership in the EU.
"But as part of our special relationship, part of being friends, is to be honest and to let you know what I think," Obama said.
"Speaking honestly, the outcome of that decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States because it affects our prospects as well," Obama said, and also hinted that the U.K. would be a less valuable ally to Washington if it left the bloc.
"The United Kingdom is at its best when it is helping to lead a strong Europe. It leverages UK power to be part of the European Union," Obama said.
Yet, after all of this shoring up of support with Prime Minister David Cameron, who wants to remain in the EU, support for leaving the EU has spiked (via Reuters):
Opponents of Britain's European Union membership have edged into the lead over the past two weeks, according to a YouGov poll which indicated President Barack Obama's intervention failed to swing support behind "In" vote in a June 23 referendum.
The online survey for The Times taken on April 25-26 showed support for the Out campaign had risen 3 percentage points to 42 percent since a similar survey on April 12-14, while support for the "In" campaign had risen 1 percentage point to 41 percent.
President Barack Obama on Friday warned Britain would be "in the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the United States if it dropped out of the EU, an unusually strong intervention into British politics that "In" campaigners welcomed.
"Some have portrayed Obama's intervention as backfiring - I wouldn't go that far but this poll does suggest that Obama hasn't given the remain team a boost at all," Anthony Wells, director of political research at YouGov, said by telephone.
"It hasn't been a game changer, it hasn't shifted opinion - it hasn't really made much difference at all," said Wells. "We have had a neck and neck for months now and nothing seems to be moving that."
Now, this certainly could be because this issue is a highly polarizing one. On the other hand, this is also part of an ongoing record showing that President Obama really has zero charm when it comes to his speeches. As George Will noted in 2011, giving a speech is his default position, and that he has immense faith in the power of his persuasion. Yet, the more Obama talks about the Affordable Care Act, the more unpopular it becomes. At the time, the president campaigned for Martha Coakley, which only ended with Republican Scott Brown winning the late Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat. He campaigned with then-NJ Gov. Jon Corzine, which ended with Republican Chris Christie winning the governorship. He went to campaign against Bob McDonnell in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, which he won. After 2008, Obama’s speeches depreciated faster than luxury cars leaving the parking lot. What makes him think that it could work across the pond? Obviously, it didn’t.