A brief update on the state of the polls as we head towards Christmas. First let look at voting intention. The six voting intention polls we’ve seen published so far in December have all shown the two main parties essentially neck and neck – two have shown tiny Labour leads, two have shown tiny Conservative leads, two have had them equal (the YouGov poll for the People’s Vote campaign in the Sunday papers today may have had a slighter larger lead, but it shouldn’t upset the average).

Opinium (14th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 39%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 6%
YouGov (7th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 37%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 3%
Kantar (6th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 5%
Ipsos MORI (5th Dec) – CON 38%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%
YouGov (4th Dec) – CON 40%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 4%
ComRes (2nd Dec) – CON 37%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 6%

Despite the incredibly turbulent situation in British politics, there has been relatively little change in voting intention since the general election. Through late 2017 there was a very small Labour lead, for most of 2018 there was a very small Conservative lead (with a few periods of Labour ahead – most significantly the weeks following the Johnson/Davis resignations). At no point has either party really pulled away. Politics may have been chaos, but voting intention have been steady.

This itself is remarkable given the state of the government at present. If you look at any other measure, they are in a dire situation. The government’s net satisfaction rating in the MORI poll last week was minus 45 (24% satisfied, 69% dissatisfaction). That is comparable to the sort of figures that the Brown government was getting in 2008 or the Thatcher government in 1990… both periods when the opposition had a clear lead in voting intention. Any question asking about the government’s main policy – the delivery of Brexit – shows that a solid majority of people think they are doing badly at implementing it. Today’s poll from Opinium found people thought the party was divided by 69% to 18% (and quite what those 18% of people were thinking I do not know!). And yet, the Conservatives remain pretty much neck-and-neck in the polls.

I can think of three potential explanations (and they are by no means exclusive to one another). The first is that people have simply switched off. The ongoing chaos isn’t impacting people’s voting intention because they are not paying attention. The second is that voting intentions may still be being largely driven by Brexit and, regardless of how well the Conservatives are delivering Brexit, they are the main party that claims it is committed to doing so, and while support for Brexit has fallen, the split in the country is still normally around 47%-53%.

The third potential reason is that Labour are not a particularly attractive option to many voters either – one of the few clear changes in the polls this year is a sharp drop in Jeremy Corbyn’s approval ratings. At the end of last year his approval rating from MORI was minus 7, in the MORI poll last week it was minus 32. On YouGov’s Best Prime Minister question he continues to trail well behind Theresa May (and often both of them trail behind “Not sure”).

While it is interesting to ponder why the voting intention figures remain stable, it’s not necessary particularly meaningful. In the next four months Brexit will either go ahead with a deal that many will dislike, go ahead without any deal with whatever short or long term consequences that may bring, or be delayed or cancelled. Any of these has the potential to have massive impact on support for the parties.

On Brexit itself, public opinion on what should come next is not necessarily much clearer than opinion in Westminster. Throughout 2018 opinion has continued to drift slowly against Brexit – asked if we should remain or leave polls tend to find a modest lead for Remain – typically showing a swing of around 5 points since the referendum (They are helpfully collated by John Curtice here – his average of the last six polls to ask how people would vote now currently shows a Remain lead of 53% to 47%).

While the majority of people don’t support Brexit any longer, that does not necessarily translate into clear
support for stopping it, or indeed for most other courses of action. Poll after poll asks what the government should do next, and there is little clear support for anything. Theresa May’s proposed deal certainly does not have majority support (YouGov’s Sunday Times poll last week found 22% supported it, 51% opposed. MORI’s poll found 62% thought it was a bad thing, 25% good). When Opinium asked what should happen if the deal was defeated, 19% wanted to re-open negotiations, 20% said leave with no deal, 10% said have an election, 30% have a referendum, 11% cancel Brexit altogether. When MORI asked a similar question with slightly different options 16% said renegotiate, 25% said no deal, 10% an election and 30% a referendum.

When polls ask directly about a referendum they tend to find support (although, to be fair, most polls asking about referendums normally find support for then – it is essentially a question asking whether the respondent would like a say, or whether politicians should decide for them). However, a new referendum is obviously a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

And therein lies the problem – there is scant support for most plausible leave outcomes, but reversing Brexit in some way risks a significant minority of voters (and a majority of the government’s supporters) reacting extremely negatively indeed. In the YouGov Sunday Times poll last week they asked what people’s emotional response would be to the most plausible outcomes (current deal, no deal, soft Brexit, referendum and no Brexit). Would people feel delighted, pleased, relived, disappointed, angry, betrayed, or wouldn’t mind either way?

If Britain ended up leaving without a deal 23% would react positively, 53% negatively.
If Britain ended up leaving with the proposed deal, 20% would react positively, 51% negatively.
If Britain ended up with a softer Brexit, staying in the customs union and single market, 27% would react positively, 35% negatively.

Finally, if there was a referendum and Britain voted to stay, 42% would react positively, 39% would react negatively. This is the outcome that would have a positive reaction from the largest proportion of people, but it would also be by far the most divisive. When asked about their reaction to the deal or a soft Brexit, most people gave people towards the middle of the scale – they’d be disappointed, or relieved, or wouldn’t mind. Asked about reversing the decision to Leave, answers tended to the extremes – 26% would be delighted, but 23% would feel betrayed, including 51% of people who voted Brexit back in 2016.

1,579 Responses to “Where public opinion stands”

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  1. @PETERW

    Exactly. And if she wanted it, and Labour wants it, it wouldn’t take many Tory MPs to get it over the line…

  2. @ Hireton
    Ha Ha. Colin & his patronising comments: & I think we all know who needs to get out more.

    Brexit Blues at Bowls Club
    Ist Oik: Why can’t we just blerry well ‘op it out er EU.

    Colin: It’s not as simple as that. Read the last 50 threads of UK Polling: you will find my comments particualrly stimulating.

    1st Oik: Didn’t know yer wrote for UK Bowling (Monthly). Never miss it. It was them warned Brussels were planning compulsory square bowls.
    2nd Oik. … with spikes.

    Colin. (polishing monocle): No Polling!!

    1st Oik. Poleing! Never ‘eard of it. Sounds dangerous. Yer know Drake finished game of bowls before baterin the Spanish. Thats the bucaneering spirit this country needs.
    2nd Oik. Werent square bowls neifer.

    Colin: But there will be huge problems.

    1st Oik. Nah! That bloke Davis said on the telly we would all be better off: & that weird blighter who wears his grandad’s funeral suits.
    2nd Oik….Great-grandad’s.


    Feel better now?

    Outside the sectarian sanctums of Political Activism, people of all sorts and all views actually meet in social activities -simply because they enjoy each others company & the activity in question.

    The key to this interaction ( known as a Cross Section of Society ) is fairly simple-
    everyone knows something about something if you care to listen & learn.; but; preaching is soon discouraged.

    You should try it some time.

  4. The Remain block of MPs, MSPs, campaigners, has been very slow to get organised and ask the hard questions of Theresa May and her cabinet supporters.

    For example on the full costs of this diversion of civil-service staff to prepare for the no-deal chaos at the end of March.

    Or on how long will the EU workers being expelled from the UK have to make their exit.

    And what costs there will be in obtaining replacement staff to fill the jobs they have vacated. For example the transport each month of 2000 – 3000 staff from Southern England to replace nurses, doctors, teachers in Scotland where staff shortages are beyond crisis point.

    If staff can be shifted from their normal departmental jobs for 2/3 months for no-deal chaos, I can`t see how the government can resist taking other workers from areas where they are in reasonable numbers to crisis zones.

  5. Britain Elects
    Britain Elects
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 36% (-1)
    LAB: 36% (-2)
    LDEM: 12% (-)
    UKIP: 6% (+2)
    GRN: 5% (+1)

    Via BMG Research 08-11 Jan

  6. Pete B,

    Yes you are right to worry that the backstop locks the UK in forever.

    The backstop could end up being permanent, though that is unlikely as both sides would want to negotiate something better.

    The real problem is that any permanent solution must at least contain the elements in the backstop. This is for the same reason as the backstop itself, namely finding a trade arrangement that allows some independence but does not require a NI border.

    The permanent trade deal will therefore have to be be Backstop+.

  7. Davwel

    “If Old Nat had got back onto the board, we`d be getting messages on the long mixing of NE Scots and Poles in the C18 and earlier, with inter-marriage in the landowning classes.”

    If there had been evidence of such, I might well have posted on that, but there isn’t so I didn’t.

    Of much greater concern, has been the work of Tom Devine on the Scottish Clearances, which I got for Xmas, and have been reading with great interest.

    I commend it to you for greater understanding of Scots internal and external migration, and how it varied from area to area.

  8. On the YG “Large Poll”, only the geographic crossbreaks for London and Scotland have been published.

    Given the large numbers involved and that YG publishes demographically weighted polls for these areas, I’m presuming (though that may be wrong) that each of these has been internally weighted.

    If so, the poll for the remainder of Eng + Wales must reflect their demographics – which is something we haven’t seen represented previously.

    It may be mildly interesting to note that rE&W deviates from the sometimes published whole E&W polity approximately as follows –

    Con +7% : Lab -5% : LD -6% : Others (presumably UKIP) +2%.

    Not surprising, but perhaps useful confirmation.

    Article 26 of the Vienna convention is what supposedly makes the Northern Ireland backstop effectively time limited and no one believes that. Also, it doesn’t get around this:

    “To subject that right to revoke to the unanimous approval of the European Council as the Commission and Council proposed, would transform a unilateral sovereign right into a conditional right and would be incompatible with the principle that a Member State cannot be forced to leave the European Union against its will.”

    I’m not saying the EU couldn’t refuse, just that the EU rules would have to be flouted to do so and that such a thing is supposed to be unthinkable (at least on UKPR it is).

    By ‘consequences’ I was thinking more about political fallout. Imagine the headlines in the press if the EU refused a revokal.

    Anyway, i was sort of riffing, it isn’t going to ever happen, so it’s moot.

  10. BMG poll

    CON: 36% (-1)
    LAB: 36% (-2)
    LDEM: 12% (-)
    UKIP: 6% (+2)
    GRN: 5% (+1)

    More polling evidence pointing to it being neck and neck between the two main parties and further grist to the mill suggesting that the recent YouGov poll that showed the Tories 6% ahead was a very very odd indeed. I know it’s possible that YouGov are the only pollster marching in step, and all the others marching out, but I would have thought that flawed methodology looks the more likely reason for the marked divergence, something our resident “amateur” psephologist, Roger Mexico, has often discussed. It would be interesting to hear Anthony’s hypothesis though, particularly since he is a YouGov insider himself!


    My view is that May won’t call a general election, for a whole number of reasons. Most of her party are completely set against the thought of her leading them into another election, and who can blame them after the 2017 campaign, and I can’t see, beyond a sort of beggar thy neighbour stubbornness, why she’d want to risk public humiliation and, in all likelihood, another failed Tory campaign. All the polls suggest that the Tories won’t be able to win a majority and, considering that in 2017 a Tory lead of 15-20% was whittled down to 2% over the course of five weeks, I’d say going into a head to head with Labour when level pegging is one hell of a risk. It really is difficult to think of a set of circumstances that would lead to a Tory election win in 2019. 2022, who knows, but not in the immediate future, surely.

    I think May is far more likely to grimly hang on until she is put out of her misery by her own party. She’s immune from an official leadership challenge for 12 months, but I think the men and women in grey suits will present her with a loaded pistol and a suitably discreet room in which she then does what is expected of her.

  11. The Chief Executive of Dumfries & Galloway NHS might reasonably be described as “an expert” on drug costs.

    He has made the point to the Scottish Parliament Committee that moving out of the EMA will result in a number of drugs having to be purchased elsewhere on world markets, and frequently that will cost “3 or 4 times more”.

    Of course, experts know nothing, so feel free to ignore that.

  12. OldNat

    The published figures are not regionally weighted (by demographic attributes) – but the sheer size of the sample could create credible crossbreaks.

    However, doing such a large sample poll suggests more than what has been published (although less so about party preference).


    While increasing the sample size reduces the margin of error (as someone commented earlier), but it does so in a diminishing manner (hence the notion of “good enough” data). Reading Gosset (aka Student of t-test) is quite enlightening about this, if you are interested in barley for making beer).

    I don’t know what it is, but YouGov did some analysis which is not published, but it is unlikely to contradict the published data.

  13. Laszlo

    “The published figures are not regionally weighted”

    Do you knows that, or are you just making that assumption?

    The selective nature of publishing the geographic crossbreaks might suggest that “normal” procedures haven’t been followed in the case of this poll.

  14. Laszlo


    I’m still waiting for YG to respond to my question as to why the geographic crossbreaks (other than London) were originally redacted.

    During that time, the Scottish crossbreak only was published.

    When (or if they don’t) reply, I intend asking them about whether the geographic crossbreaks for London and Scotland were internally weighted – but if you have that information…?

  15. @Oldnat (Happy New Year to the forum members)

    “He has made the point to the Scottish Parliament Committee that moving out of the EMA will result in a number of drugs having to be purchased elsewhere on world markets, and frequently that will cost “3 or 4 times more”.”

    Not sure who’s doing the purchasing for the NHS nowadays, but its size, and that of the collected GPs purchasing power should make them one of the largest buyers in Europe.

    This one smells of political or financial opportunism (or it’s smell like something else), as prices cannot afford to rise to such levels. Unless of course the NHS / GPs already had record low costs, and will be forced to pay the same as other buyers.

    Maybe they’ll opt for GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, and buy British.

  16. @DANNY

    I would reckon myself more informed than the average voter, now and before the referendum. But we had no idea the complexities and problems of leaving at referendum time!

    I was a real pessimist when the referendum was announced for two reasons firstly even amongst remain supporters: we know more euromyths than eurofacts. Indeed we are bombarded with euromyths to such an extent and the cooperation with the EU is often sold a UK only sort of deal. Read Mays statement on the harmonising of credit card charges. the EU is not mentioned once

    Our politicians have used the EU and the blame dump for all our ills what has surprised me is not that leave won but actually that they only got 4% more votes

    From everything they say, MPs didn’t either. If they had, maybe they would have campaigned better. The leave side had no interest in pointing out difficulties with leaving, whether they understood them or not

    I think Cummings understood the matter perfectly it is why he approached the issue in the manner he did. he understood there was no majority for any specific version of Brexit that could be won. he even thought that the final deal could be put to a referendum. he also understood that it was complex and that triggering article 50 should not be done but the referendum to be used a leverage to get a two track EU one for the EZ and a looser version for the ‘others’ it is not clear what changes he wanted or policies but that was as far as I can tell from the various interviews about the campaign.

    In the end the problem with the referendum was that it nebulous in terms of what result would be and that much of the support for it was based on the idea that nothing would really change as Cumming himself seems to admit in the various conversations and tweet and the like is that he knew that this would be huge change, whislt his campaign of exuberant, he view was the startegy should be more cautious. Indeed his comments echo that of Rogers and O’Donnell in that regard.

    Our politicians however are salesmen and thus the aim is to entice you to buy there policy in fairness remain/EU always started from a bad place and I suspect that Cameron only put a referendum up such that we could slow UKIP (it was tactical astute but strategically inept)

    it is why I don’t subscribe to your conspiracy. The Tory strategy early on was to keep those leave voters sweet and to that end they have the bulk of them, Tell me a time when a politician told his base they are wrong (I can only think of one McCain telling a woman that Obama was a christian and a patriot)

    She is riding the tiger she let out, it seemed like a good idea at the time but now……..

  17. Statgeek

    “as prices cannot afford to rise to such levels”

    They already do in the USA, as my family there can testify.

    The European market for drugs is enormously larger than that of the UK and, while the EMA doesn’t directly negotiate drug prices for member countries, the need for recognition in such a huge market influences the stance of the pharma companies.

  18. Hal
    “This is for the same reason as the backstop itself, namely finding a trade arrangement that allows some independence but does not require a NI border.”

    I understand that, but as the Southern Irish government (and please nobody quibble about this, it’s to distinguish them from Northern Ireland) has said that they will not erect any sort of hard border, and so has our government, who exactly will do it? Will the EU send troops in? I don’t think so.
    To change the subject drastically, does anyone know anything about the US government shutdown? I’m thinking particularly of the difference between their system and ours. Occasionally, (as now) our Finance Bill is voted down or heavily amended, yet I have never heard of any suggestion that government would totally shut down. Is it possible here? If not, why not? I’d genuinely like to know.

  19. Pete B

    Happy to be contradicted if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that in many systems, taxes, and Government spend, remain the same unless they are altered by a Finance Act.

    In systems that need annual renewal of tax authorisation, government revenues can be halted.


    Yep – in the US the money government spends has to be apportioned by Congress each year (or an agreement passed to temporarily continue with last year’s levels etc). If there’s no agreement then there’s no operating budget and things shut down.

    Whereas here things continue as they were by default – the Budget identifies the changes the govt would like to make to how tax is raised and sometimes spent. The defeat for May on the Finance bill means the Treasury don’t necessarily get the broad power they wanted to determine (without a parliamentary vote) what changes are needed to various tax rules as a result of leaving the EU – it has no impact on their ability to divvy up revenues (and borrowings) between government departments, agencies etc.

  21. ‘re 18th century Scots/Poles.

    Legend has it that the bearded collie (we have two) was born out of an 18 century liaison in the port of Leith, between an escaped Polish seafarer’s dog (the much smaller Polish Lowland Sheepdog) and a Border Collie.

  22. It used to be the case in the USA as well that things continued as before, until the Supreme Idiocy decided in its usual constructive way that this was “unconstitutional”. The complete dysfunctionality of the US government system is a feature not a bug.

  23. Astounding reports in today’s ST.

    Bercow in an agreement with backbench MPs to change Parliamentary procedure after May loses the WA. Government will no longer have precedence in controlling business in HoC. Backbench motions / amendments to have mandatory force.

    If we finish up in a backwater like Norway, or not leaving at all it will be ERG’s fault. They gambled on an inevitable HoC process to a No Deal Exit if they just got rid of the WA.

    Bercow is going to deprive them of that it seems.

    Beginning to experience some fear about it all now.

  24. Not sure how a General Election would work. Some candidates would have to oppose the parties manifesto. Would Wokingham Still vote for Redwood and Vauxhall for Hoey?

  25. After two years of Theresa May’s platitudes, it’s all going to come to a head this week. If she loses badly she must be finished and although it feels like she’s going to refuse to go, I can’t see how she can stay to be honest.

    Her biggest mistake was not involving a broad church of politicians, as opposed to unelected bureaucrats, in her Brexit negotiations. It probably would be a similar outcome, but the broad church would have been involved and fully implicated. She has gone solo on this, and she is going to be quite exposed now.

  26. New thread

  27. Old Nat @ 11.35 pm

    I`m a little surprised you don`t know of migrations and links between Poland and Scotland, especially the NE.

    Bonnie Prince Charlie had a Polish mother, and many Scots settled in Poland.


    “”By the 17th century, it is estimated that there were at least 30,000 Scots living in Poland. Krakow was one of the main cities in which they settled, and in 1576, the Scottish community in Krakow was large enough that Poland’s King Stefan Batory, assigned a district of the city for them to settle in. Seventeenth century city records include many references to Scots becoming citizens, such as this one: “John Burnet, a Scot, producing birthbrieve dated Aberdeen, in Scotland, 29th July 1603, was admitted citizen of Krakow on taking the oath, and paid 10 Polish florins, a gun, and half a stone (lapis) of gunpowder.”

    Many Scots prospered in Poland and some managed to rise through the ranks to notable positions. Under King Stefan Batory, Scottish merchants became suppliers to the royal court in Krakow and one Scot, Alexander Chalmers (known as Alexander Czamer) became Mayor of Warsaw four times between 1691 and 1702. A plaque commemorating him can today be found in Warsaw’s Old Town at his former home.”””

    We probably don`t give as much attention to the Poles moving into Scotland, but I have stuck it in my mind from visiting the aristocratic mansion houses and seeing family genealogies that Polish ladies marrying into these landowning families was quite frequent.

    Yes, Tom Devine on the Clearances will be a good read.


    One of the remarks made to me in that conversation was-“we didn’t have all these problems joining ” .The nature of the difference between the European Economic Community which we joined, and the European UNion which we are trying to leave was not, however lost on them.

    Yes we did have problems joining we were refused several times, We even had a referendum previously based on the fact that the ruling party at the time was split on the matter and that was the EEC

    Secondly I remind everyone all the WA does is settle the accounts sorts out NI border that remain frictionless. The difficult bit is yet to come we have not tried to disentangle ourselves from the EU as yet so I am not sure if we have such difficulty over what is essentially a very simple set of objectives what happens after will is just going to be harder to solve

    This was sold as easy and then sold as though we had all the cards and then sold as the EU being bullies. It was in simple terms the sort of hubris that got us into Iraq.

    There again-it is the MPs who will decide , and their various factions seem either implacably attached to a viewpoint-or focussed entirely on party political advantage.

    I would have more sympathy if May had not done all the things she had. The citizens of nowhere speech, the red lines,Boris as FS, the lack of collectivity, The attempt to subvert parliament. She set this up with a view that electorate themselves were not divided and they were.

    My angst at all of this was that when I pointed out that Brexit was not about policy but tribalism. COLIN argued that this is what politics is about, to now lament the idea that people are playing the sort of politics that you suggest is the natural order of thing is rather a sad reflection of the state of our political discourse. We ARE too tribal in out politics and it does not help create good policy

  29. Another poll with a Labour lead of 3% being reported on Britain elects


    LAB: 38% (-)
    CON: 35% (-3)
    LDEM: 9% (-)
    UKIP: 6% (+1)
    Grn: 4% (-1)

    , 10 – 14 Jan
    Chgs. w/ Dec

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