Opinion polling on Brexit has not necessarily been the best. Highly politically contentious issues do tend to attract polling that is sub-optimal, and Brexit has followed that trend. I’ve seen several Brexit polls coming up with surprising findings based on agree/disagree statements – that is, questions asked in the form:

Do you agree with the following statement? I think Brexit is great
Agree
Disagree
Don’t know

This is a very common way of asking questions, but one that has a lot of problems. One of the basic rules in writing fair and balanced survey questions is that you should try to given equal prominence to both sides of the argument. Rather than ask “Do you support X?”, a survey should ask “Do you support or oppose X?”. In practice agree-disagree statements break that basic rule – they ask people whether they agree/disagree with one side of the argument, without mentioning the other side of the argument.

In some cases the opposite side of the argument is implicit. If the statement is “Theresa May is doing a good job”, then it is obvious to most respondents that the alternative view is that May is doing a bad job (or perhaps an average job). Even when it’s as obvious as this it still sometimes to make a difference – for whatever reason, decades of academic research into questionnaire design suggest people are more likely to agree with statements than to disagree with them, regardless of what the statement is (generally referred to as “acquiescence bias”).

There is a substantial body of academic evidence exploring this phenomenon (see, for example Schuman & Presser in the 1980s, or the recent work of Jon Krosnick) it tends to find around 10%-20% of people will agree with both a statement and its opposite, if it is asked in both directions. Various explanations have been put forward for this in academic studies – that it’s a result of personality type, or that it is satisficing (people just trying to get through a survey with minimal effort). The point is that it exists.

This is not just a theoretical issue that turns up in artificial academic experiments – they are plenty of real life examples in published polls. My favourite remains this ComRes poll for UKIP back in 2009. It asked if people agreed or disagreed with a number of statements including “Britain should remain a full member of the EU” and “Britain should leave the European Union but maintain close trading links”. 55% of people agreed that Britain should remain a full member of the EU. 55% of people also agreed that Britain should leave the EU. In other words, at least 10% of the same respondents agreed both that Britain should remain AND leave.

There is another good real life example in this poll. 42% agreed with a statement saying that “divorce should not be made too easy, so as to encourage couples to stay together”. However, 69% of the same sample also agreed that divorce should be “as quick and easy as possible”. At least 11% of the sample agreed both that divorce should be as easy as possible AND that it should not be too easy.

Examples like this of polls that asked both sides of the argument and produced contradictory findings are interesting quirks – but since they asked the statement in both directions they don’t mislead. However, it is easy to imagine how they would risk being misleading if they had asked the statement in only one direction. If that poll had only asked the pro-Brexit statement, then it would have looked as if a majority supported leaving. If the poll had only asked the anti-Leave statement, then it would have looked as if a majority supported staying. With agree-disagree statements, if you don’t ask both sides, you risk getting a very skewed picture.

In practice, I fear the problem is often far more serious in published political polls. The academic studies tend to use quite neutrally worded, simple, straightforward statements. In the sort of political polling for pressure groups and campaigning groups that you see in real life the statements are often far more forcefully worded, and are often statements that justify or promote an opinion – below are some examples I’ve seen asked as agree-disagree statements in polls:

“The Brexit process has gone on long enough so MPs should back the Prime Minister’s deal and get it done”
“The result of the 2016 Referendum should be respected and there should be no second referendum”
“The government must enforce the minimum wage so we have a level playing field and employers can’t squeeze out British workers by employing immigrants on the cheap”

I don’t pick these because they are particularly bad (I’ve seen much worse), only to illustrate the difference. These are statements that are making an active argument in favour of an opinion, where the argument in the opposite direction is not being made. They do not give a reason why MPs may not want to back the Prime Minister’s deal, why a second referendum might be a good idea, why enforcing the minimum wage might be bad. It is easy to imagine that respondents might find these statements convincing… but that they might have found the opposite opinion just as convincing if they’d been presented with that. I would expect questions like this to produce a much larger bias in the direction of the statement if asked as an agree-disagree statement.

With a few exceptions I normally try to avoid running agree-disagree statements, but we ran some specially to illustrate the problems, splitting the sample so that one group of respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a statement, and a second group where asked if they agreed-disagreed with a contrasting statement. As expected, it produces varied results.

For simple questions, like whether Theresa May is doing a good job, the difference is small (people disagreed with the statement that “Theresa May is doing a good job by 57% to 15% and agreed with the statement that “Theresa May is doing a bad job” by 52% to 18%. Almost a mirror image. On some of the other questions, the differences were stark:

  • If you asked if people agree that “The NHS needs reform more than it needs extra money” then people agree by 43% to 23%. However, if you ask if people agree with the opposite statement, that “The NHS needs extra money more than it needs reform”, then people also agree, by 53% to 20%.
  • If you ask if people agree or disagree that “NHS services should be tailored to the needs of populations in local areas, even if this means that there are differences across the country as a whole” than people agree by 43% to 18%. However, if you ask if they agree or disagree with a statement putting the opposite opinion – “NHS services should be the same across the country” – then people agree by 88% to 2%!
  • By 67% to 12% people agree with the statement that “Brexit is the most important issue facing the government and should be its top priority”. However, by 44% to 26% they also agree with the statement “There are more important issues that the government should be dealing with than Brexit”

I could go on – there are more results here (summary, full tabs) – but I hope the point is made. Agree/disagree statements appear to produce a consistent bias in favour of the statement, and while this can be minor in questions asking simple statements of opinion, if the statements amount to political arguments the scale of the bias can be huge.

A common suggested solution to this issue is to make sure that the statements in a survey are balanced, with an equal amount of statements in each direction. So, for example, if you were doing a survey about attitudes towards higher taxes, rather than asking people if they agreed or disagreed with ten statements in favour of high taxes, you’d ask if people agreed or disagreed with five statements in favour of higher taxes and five statements in favour of lower taxes.

This is certainly an improvement, but is still less than ideal. First it can produce contradictory results like the examples above. Secondly, in practice it can often result in some rather artificial and clunky sounding questions and double-negatives. Finally, in practice it is often difficult to make sure statements really are balanced (too often I have seen surveys that attempt a balanced statement grid, but where the statements in one direction are hard-hitting and compelling, and in the other direction are deliberately soft-balled or unappetising).

The better solution is not to ask them as agree-disagree statements at all. Change them into questions with specific answers – instead of asking if people agree that “Theresa May is going a good job”, ask if May is doing a good or bad job. Instead of asking if people agree that “The NHS needs reform more than it needs more money”, ask what people think the NHS needs more – reform or more money? Questions like the examples I gave above can easily be made better by pairing the contrasting statements, and asking which better reflects respondents views:

  • Asked to pick between the two statements on NHS reform or funding, 41% of people think it needs reform more, 43% think it needs extra money more.
  • Asked to pick between the two statements on NHS services, 36% think they should be tailored to local areas, 52% would prefer them to be the same across the whole country.
  • Asked to pick between the two statements on the importance of Brexit, 58% think it is the most important issue facing the government, 27% think there are more important issues the government should be dealing with instead.

So what does this mean when it comes to interpreting real polls?

The sad truth is that, despite the known problems with agree-disagree statements, they are far from uncommon. They are quick to ask, require almost no effort at all to script and are very easy for clients after a quick headline to interpret. And I fear there are some clients to whom the problems with bias are an advantage, not a obstacle; you often see them in polls commissioned by campaigning groups and pressure groups with a clear interest in getting a particular result.

Whenever judging a poll (and this goes to observers reading them, and journalists choosing whether to report them) my advice has always been to go to polling companies websites and look at the data tables – look at the actual numbers and the actual question wording. If the questions behind the headlines have been asked using agree-disagree statements, you should be sceptical. It’s a structure that does have an inherent bias, and does result in more people agreeing than if the question had been asked a different way.

Consider how the results may have been very different if the statement had been asked in the opposite direction. If it’s a good poll, you shouldn’t have to imagine that – the company should have made the effort to balance the poll by asking some of the statements in the opposite direction. If they haven’t made that effort, well, to me that rings some alarm bells.

If you get a poll that’s largely made up of agree-disagree statements, that are all worded in the direction that the client wants the respondent to answer rather than some in each direction, that use emotive and persuasive phrasing rather than bland and neutral wording? You would be right to be cautious.


1,954 Responses to “Why you should be wary of agree/disagree statements”

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  1. PATRICKBRIAN

    “Meanwhile, like yourself, we all get on with our lives in our own ways and are generally pleasant to each other, whatever our politics.

    Good to hear.

  2. Most people think Farage is in UKIP so if he does make a lot of appearances it may help UKIP not the new party.

  3. GUYMONDE

    Why would I agree “violently”. I’m not a violent person and I have had a really good day, with a long walk in our local country park this morning and I spent the afternoon entering record in my new database, so I’m feeling very relaxed now.

    Have a good evening all.

  4. @profhoward

    I can’t see that working with the current Parliament – a referendum between “remain” and “leave as little as possible while still technically going” would I think struggle to attract anywhere near enough Conservative votes to get through. (As well as being viewed – rightly – by a good chunk of leave supporters as a stitch-up, which won’t go down well within the Conservative party)

    Too few Conservatives voted for either CM2 or Ref2 in the indicative votes – combining the two options is unlikely to make it more popular with them.

    Of course, May could in theory back it and whip the loyalish half of her party to support it – but once the government is enacting a policy supported by the opposition but not by most of its own MPs, the chances of it staying the government are basically nil.

    The only things I can see getting through the current Parliament are:
    – a General Election (but only if May tries to call it)
    – a binding No Deal vs Remain 2nd ref, as it provides a compromise between the opposition and the ERG where both might get what they want to shut out the moderate Conservatives (but actually getting the legislation through to do it, not just an indicative intent, would I think fall through somewhere along the way)
    – a last minute revocation on 31 October when time’s up
    – a VoNC leading to a GE (if the DUP decide they’ve had enough)

    I don’t think the primary Con and Lab positions are close enough to get any sort of compromise through, though they can keep meeting and trying for a few weeks at little cost.

  5. ProfHoward

    As Farage forgot to register his party’s website and Led by Donkeys registered it (thebrexitparty.com), it will be even more challenging.

    [I really don’t think he matters anymore.]

  6. Just a local by election in Edinburgh in an SNP/SGP/SLab ward with 30% turnout, so of limited interest until I look at the details of preferential voting order.

    Leith Walk first preferences.

    SNP: 35.7% (+1.4)
    SGP: 25.5% (+5.9)
    SLab: 15.5% (-7.0)
    SCon: 10.7% (-3.7)
    SLD: 8.6% (+4.8)

    Also 6 very minor candidates with a total of 4% of the vote -Independent (2), Socialist Labour, UKIP, For Britain, Libertarian.

    After those 6 had been eliminated and transfers made, the share of the remaining vote was

    SNP : 36.7%
    SGP : 26.6%
    SLab: 16.1%
    Scon: 11.0%
    SLD : 9.1%

  7. BIGFATRON – My second disagreement is in regards to another vote – since what we are likely to be offered is streets away from what was promised, why shouldn’t we all have another look at whether it is actually what we want?

    Poll after poll after poll shows that the most favoured Leave option amongst Leavers, by a long way, is ‘No Deal’. Most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that it meant leaving the entire EU apparatus. and indeed, now we are in the locals and after having watched the passers by rip into the Labour campaigners in the town centre saturday just gone (do they really have to wear those stupid red plastic ponchos?) over their betrayal of Brexit I think they are in for a hammering in Labour Leave areas such as this one.

    Remain are obsessed with a Peoples Vote of Remain versus May’s Deal,, a choice viewed by Leavers as an establishment stitch-up (which it would be) and any referendum that does nopt have the most favoured Leave option of leavers would be a disgrace..

    Really, being as Remain lost once already, any second referendum should be May’s Deal -v- No Deal.. Any other choice just is not legitimate.

  8. The Other Howard,
    “I realised that on the day after the referendum but instead of accepting the result as I would have done, many Remainers campaigned to overturn a democratic vote”

    Overturning a democratic vote by applying democratic pressure is purely a further exercise of democracy. Preventing such a thing to happen is to end democracy.

    Carfrew,
    “someone else asked about the growth since 1992, and as I replied, you can’t necessarily attribute it to the EU”

    Total coincidence then that before the date we joined it was steady at a low rate of growth, and ever since we joined has been steady at a much higher rate. The figures quite extraordinarily say that something fundamental happened to the UK economy at about the time we joined the EU, which has continued ever since.

    What else do you suggest has applied through this time but not before?

  9. Shevii,
    “We actually have a situation where both protest votes for remain and leave are split down the middle.”

    Maybe…but at the last election the respective votes moved tactically behind the forerunner.

    There was a poll suggesting more people are committed remainers or leavers than committed labour or conservative.

  10. adw

    abusive shouty leavers aren’t the majority of voters, you know

    we’ll see

  11. TOH

    You point out that people campaigned against Brexit before enacting it.

    Do you ascribe some of the blame for that on the tactics to insult, deride and resort to meaningless jingoistic tautologies instead of trying to bring people onside.

    It’s almost as if she wanted as much of the remain vote to fight her as hard as possible. Her attitude entrenched people more than at the time of the referendum. A more statesmanlike leader would not have pushed large swathes of the population against them. She made it an art form.

    It’s partly due to the “Get over it” crowd that people never did. I gave May the benefit of the doubt until her first conference speech. If she had made a genuine appeal to bring the country together then my attitude would have developed differently. “Citizens of Nowhere” was a little too close to the populism of “Enemies of the People” for my liking. I see it as she willfully made an enemy of me, it’s not unusual to oppose your enemies is it?

    I seem to recall shortly after the referendum, I predicted we would probably both be unhappy with the final outcome. I’m a little surprised that you are so despondent as you seem to accept there is nowhere close to a majority for your view. Did you genuinely think that a large number of MPs would have an epiphany at the last minute and convert to Howardism?

    Been rather busy with a new job so haven’t had time to post here.

  12. ADW @ BIGFATRON

    Most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that it meant leaving the entire EU apparatus.

    Do you have an independent source for that assertion?

  13. @DANNY Having a second vote is not the problem. Its having it BEFORE the result of the first vote thats the problem. It just smacks of being a childish sore-loser.

    Would you support having another General Election before the result of one has even opened Parliament?

    I see that apparently there were two council by-elections in South Wales in Labour seats last night and Plaid wiped the floor with Labour. The tory vote – although derisory in those wards anyway, held firm. Ties in loosely with Prof Huw Scully’s stuff somone posted yesterday I think

  14. ADW @ April 12th, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    ” Most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that it meant leaving the entire EU apparatus”

    Good, no proof provided; conjecture and presumption working very well here.

    “after having watched the passers by rip into the Labour campaigners in the town centre saturday just gone…over their betrayal of Brexit I think they are in for a hammering in Labour Leave areas such as this one.”

    A nice apocryphal touch, impossible to substantiate or extrapolate meaningfully, though this is claimed shamelessly.

    “as Remain lost once already”

    Denial of fact that it’s 1 – 1, as remain won the first referendum in 1975. Tick VG.

    “any second referendum should be May’s Deal -v- No Deal.. Any other choice just is not legitimate.”

    This is good, it’s very funny how you contrive to appear so blinkered, but you’ll have to do far better if you’re going to challenge Howie for his crown. Worth booking as a support act though.

  15. ADW

    It’d be quite hard to get MPs to vote for a new general election before parliament opened but if anyone wants to start campaigning early for a new one that is their right. I suppose they could all conspire to not take their seats and let Brenda sort it out.

    Ultimately it’d depend on whether or not a supermajority of MPs wanted to have another one. There is no minimum time before they can vote on the issue.

  16. BARBAZENZERO.

    Andrew Marr (to Michael Gove) “Do you want us to say inside the single market?”

    “No. We should be outside the single market. We should have access to the single market, but we should not be governed by the rules that the European Court of Justice imposes on us, which cost business and restrict freedom.” ( Boris Johnson later said he agreed with Mr Gove’s comments that the UK would be out of the single market following a Brexit vote.)

  17. @Danny

    “Total coincidence then that before the date we joined it was steady at a low rate of growth, and ever since we joined has been steady at a much higher rate. The figures quite extraordinarily say that something fundamental happened to the UK economy at about the time we joined the EU, which has continued ever since.

    ———

    No it’s not a total coincidence, it was a period of relative calm following an era when you had nearly a decade of the oil crisis and then the early nineties recession.

    That was a difficult time in our history. Prior to that, things were better than 1992 onwards. In the period 1950 – 1970, GDP almost doubled. The period following 1992 wasn’t as good as that because if the Banking Crunch, obvs.

  18. @Danny

    “What else do you suggest has applied through this time but not before?”

    ——

    What applied post-92 was the absence of an oil crisis and early Nineties recession.

    Other countries outside the EU also enjoyed these benign conditions, up to,the oil crisis.

    There are also other bits and pieces, like North Sea oil output peaked in 2001 at 3.2 mbpd

  19. @Danny

    The U.S., who weren’t in the EU at the time, also,enjoyed these benign economic conditions following the recession early on.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s_United_States_boom

    “The 1990s economic boom in the United States was an extended period of economic prosperity, during which GDP increased continuously for almost ten years (the longest recorded expansion in the history of the United States). It commenced after the end of the early 1990s recession in March 1991, and ended in March 2001 with the start of the early 2000s recession, following the bursting of the dot com bubble.“

  20. @ Danny

    My comments were mainly based on the Euro elections where there is less likely to be a “winning here” theme.
    The way the polling looks we could be seeing quite a few regions where it might not be a million miles off Lab and Con on 25% each and 4 or 5 others sharing the remaining 50%. Potentially this makes it very close for Lab and Con picking up 2 each and one or two others getting lucky depending how many seats in the region. But just a bit lower for Lab and Con could mean everyone gets a piece of the pie. Scotland of course basically SNP for one and two and maybe three straight off?
    Currently hard to see big breakthroughs in terms of seats for Westminster for any of the smaller parties other than a few for Lib Dems and TIG holding at very best a handful. How the”wasted vote” splits determines whether it is Lab or Con government and whether majority or minority. Still a long way to go for any political earthquake and formation of SDP and Cleggmania seemed like bigger events than we yet have.

  21. @Danny

    Best in mind too, the Nineties saw the fall of the Wall and the new markets it opened up, and the IT boom and rise of the internet.

  22. Colin

    The truth is the Tories if they are to give Corbyn a run in the next GE need to pick a relative unknown who is not tainted by brexit. And does not spend the next two years fighting the party and the EU over brexit .It’s true these days I get my info over the internet but it seems the public are sick to death of Westminster and the school yard Punch and Judy show that has taken the place of serious debate no matter what side they support.

    The trouble is that the grass roots Tory party still believe it’s possible for a pro brexit Leader like that baffoon Boris to renegotiate a better deal or leave the EU with no deal.
    They have yet to wake up to the fact that both of those boats have sailed.
    However I’m not that disillusioned Corbyn’s is a very unpopular politician with the public so with May gone and a fresh younger face in charge as long as May’s deal goes through which it will do with a form of CU and brexit takes a back seat then it’s all to play for.

    The danger is that the current talks between May and Labour are just a sham and Labour have taken the view of letting it drag on to October and beyond is good for them ,after all they want power like any opposition and the longer they can tie the aTories up with infighting over brexit and keep them from actually running the country and concentrating on things that matter to ordinary people the better Labours chances in a GE.

    Just as a side living here in Texas it’s a complete brexit free zone most people here would struggle to know where most European countries are located. I was talking to someone yesterday who thought the Second World War started in 1942 and ended in 1948 go figure.

    Brexit is mentioned on major news outlets as something to fill the news program but usually portrayed as something comic with useless British politicians shouting at each other. It comes to something when American politicians who are usually loathed over here are seen in a better light than the U.K. political class but that’s the power of brexit.
    By the way if you really want to confuse the locals ask them what does the word brexit mean. The best answer I’ve had so far is brexit is the name of a cartoon character in Snow White and the seven dwarfs.

  23. ADW: I see that apparently there were two council by-elections in South Wales in Labour seats last night and Plaid wiped the floor with Labour. The tory vote – although derisory in those wards anyway, held firm.

    Were these town or parish council elections?

    The only three borough/district/unitary by-elections I can see (excluding the Scottish SNP hold already discussed by Oldnat) from yesterday are Burnley (Rosehill with Burnley Wood), Merthyr Tydfil (Cyfarthfa) and Lambeth (Thornton). The results, respectively, were LD hold, Independent hold and Labour hold.

    The last of these was quite interesting:

    LAB: 41.5% (-3.3)
    LDEM: 40.7% (+7.9)
    GRN: 7.1% (-2.6)
    CON: 6.9% (-2.7)
    WEP: 2.2% (+0.4)
    UKIP: 1.6% (+0.2)

  24. Leith Walk preference analysis

    I just looked at the distribution of 2nd preferences (if any) for the 5 main parties. The not unexpected relationship of the 2 indy parties is obvious, as is the SGP ability to pick up 2nd pref votes from everyone but the Tories,

    The willingness of SCon voters to have SLD as their second pref does not seem to be reciprocated.

    506 SNP only : 2nd Pref SGP 1388 ; SLab 348 ; SLD 202 ; Far Left 51 ; Ind 49 ; Far Right 32 ; SCon 28
    198 SGP only : 2nd Pref SNP 822 ; SLab 346 ; SLD 314 ; Far Left 72 ; Ind 65 ; SCon 25 ; Far Right 14
    251 SLab only : 2nd Pref SGP 161 ; SNP 160 ; Far Left 101 ; Scon 61 ; SLD 44 ; Ind 37 ; Far Right 7
    225 SCon only : 2nd Pref SLD 216 ; Far Right 93 ; Slab 92 ; Ind 61 ; SGP 51 ; SNP 31 ; Far Left 8
    83 SLD only : 2nd Pref SGP 171 ; Slab 154 ; SNP 81 ; SCon 69 ; Ind 39 ; Far Right 17 ; Far Left 9

  25. TURK

    Yes they have a Double Bind on the leadership summed up in your :-

    @” if they are to give Corbyn a run in the next GE need to pick a relative unknown who is not tainted by brexit”-

    and

    @”the grass roots Tory party still believe it’s possible for a pro brexit Leader like that baffoon Boris to renegotiate a better deal or leave the EU with no deal.”

    I think the idea of Party Members choosing the Leader should be scrapped. MPs should decide.

    But it won’t arise until she gets her WA /PD through HoC. Signs this evening are that its getting a bit fraught in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Talks. Cons calling Starmer “an ideologue” & less flexible than McDonnell !!!!!!

    Onward and Upward……………..well Sideways anyway !

    Looks like you might be getting an Ecuadorian REfugee before long. Be sure to take suitable care of him .

  26. “Most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that it meant leaving the entire EU apparatus.”

    But why should this be driven by most people who voted leave? Most people who voted certainly didn’t favour that.

  27. ON why do you think the Labour vote took a drop in Edinburgh Leith Walk? I had heard that Corbyn had picked up some Yes voters.

  28. @Danny

    “Other countries outside the EU also enjoyed these benign conditions, up to the oil crisis.“ should be “up to the banking crisis”.

  29. Somerjohn

    “SNP hold”

    Although a SLab councillor who resigned was replaced by another SNP one (formerly 2 SNP : 1 SGP : 1 SLab – now 3SNP, 1 SGP) “hold” isn’t an unreasonable shorthand for a AV style by election in an STV ward, where a dominant party might be expected to gain the seat in a by election.

    It’s not an accurate description, however, and the frequently used “gain” is just as bad!

  30. @Oldnat

    Ah, sorry. I knew it was a bit complicated and that you had already discussed it. I didn’t want to risk ruffling feathers by omitting it from my list of yesterday’s by-elections, hence my acknowledgement, but clearly I should have been more precise.

    The main point of my post was to try to establish whether ADW was attributing political significance to town or parish council by-elections, which always strikes me as a bit tenuous.

  31. Prof Howard

    “I had heard that Corbyn had picked up some Yes voters.”

    The accuracy of that depends on who told you that!

    Scottish elections aren’t easy to simplify in that way.

    Apart from the intermingling of two different constitutional crevasses, and traditional party loyalties (especially among the oldies), together with the reported performance of the parties in Holyrood as well as Westminster, there is the pretence by SCon and SLab that they are “separate parties” in Scotland, and not just local branches of their UK parent bodies.

    Consequently, a popular “Scottish” leader can counterbalance an unpopular UK one – and very much vice versa!

  32. @[email protected]

    Asked for evidence that “Most people who voted Leave did so on the assumption that it meant leaving the entire EU apparatus” you quote two people.

    Even presuming they both voted leave, which might not be an unreasonable guess, I’m not sure two quite cuts it as most.

    As we haven’t really got room for 9,000,000 individual anecdotes, and thus is a polling site, any polling evidence that MOST people who voted leave did so for the reason you assert?

  33. Somerjohn

    I wasn’t complaining – just pointing out that the traditional terminology of “hold”, “gain”, “loss” don’t work well in Scots local by elections.

    You will probably be aware that I have a preference for accuracy of words, but I don’t know what would best describe the results in our system.

    I tend to just state the result, try to look into some of the factors, and just avoid the problem!

  34. ADW,
    “Would you support having another General Election before the result of one has even opened Parliament?”

    In a democratic system the public has ways to express its views to parliament. Parliament surprisingly often sees the way the public mood is heading, and acts accordingly. It is because the government has insisted on the principle that a majority of 1 makes the decision, that even a small change of heart by the public becomes significant. If even a small majority is enough to leave, then it is also enough to stay.

    In any real situation following an election, it seems unlikely a new one would be called before those elected had actually taken office. Presumably a certain time would be needed for the public to change its mind. Though, if as in this case, the winners came on the media the following day and withdrew promises which had been made, it might be that a demand would arise for a new election even before the last one had taken effect.

    However, in this case two whole years have elapsed, which is quite long enough for the national mood to reverse.

    But I would reiterate, in an election the rules of the game are that someone generally gets a fixed period in which to achieve or fail to achieve their promises. Fulfillment is never guaranteed. But in a referendum the promised aim is to fulfill the will of the people. If the will of the people has changed, then carrying out a contrary outcome is going against the rules of the referendum.

  35. carfrew,
    “No it’s not a total coincidence, it was a period of relative calm following an era when you had nearly a decade of the oil crisis and then the early nineties recession.

    That was a difficult time in our history. Prior to that, things were better than 1992 onwards. In the period 1950 – 1970, GDP almost doubled. The period following 1992 wasn’t as good as that because if the Banking Crunch, obvs.”

    You picked the ground to fight on by posting the link to gdp figures of your own choice. Those figures show no indication of the different periods you mention now. They clearly show one steady growth rate before joining, and a second considerably higher rate after, extending right up to now. yes, a few wobbles in the tend, but basically very constant. So what apart from joining the EU happened in 73 and has persisted until now?

    https://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1930_2020UKb_17c1li011mcn__UK_Gross_Domestic_Product_GDP_History

  36. Oldnat: You will probably be aware that I have a preference for accuracy of words

    Yes, indeed. But while it’s a preference I share, I find it often clashes with my other preference, for succinctness (or, at least, brevity).

    For instance, the result in Burnley that I described as a LD hold was actually more complicated than that, because the LD who had won the seat last time, had subsequently defected to another party, and then some time later resigned (citing harassment and abuse by a local voter), causing the by-election. So it could equally have been described as a LD gain, or a LD hold.

    Would my post have been any the better for including all that? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think there’s a right answer.

  37. Danny

    “So what apart from joining the EU happened in 73 and has persisted until now?”

    I haven’t been following this debate on comparative growth rates, and have no great interest in joining it now.

    However, 1973 was the start of the oil crisis, and the flow of oil and gas from the waters around Scotland became (and remains) a major factor in the UK economy.

  38. Somerjohn

    As I said, I wasn’t complaining! Indeed I originally said that in the circumstances of Leith Walk, “hold” was an acceptable (if not wholly accurate) description.

  39. @Norbold – interesting observations from Tendring.

    Amongst all the predictions of meltdown for the traditional parties in the EP elections, I was also pondering how the pro Brexit vote is deeply fractured. Tories are plummeting in the polls, but the alternatives for those votes are going to be going for each other hammer and tongs, with many pro Brexit voters left confused about who they should vote for.

  40. @SAM

    Brexit is an English phenomenon mainly rather than Welsh, I suppose.

    Curious what you’re basing that assertion on, other than England simply being much bigger?

  41. Anthony has long complained of the inability of the press to report polls accurately.

    This might give him some cheer. A complaint against the Telegraph publishing a piece by the (overpaid and over pompous) former Foreign Secretary (and now once again a hack misreporting reality) has been upheld.

    https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/ruling/?id=00154-19

    The Telegraph’s defence reminded Prof Chalmers of the “Scottish newspaper which tried to defend itself against a charge of contempt of court by arguing that its readers read it for entertainment and not facts.”

  42. @ Alec

    “with many pro Brexit voters left confused about who they should vote for”

    Difficult to say how this will go at this point, but my feeling is that one shouldn’t underestimate the Farage factor. If he does manage to convince enough people to switch to his new party, then that’s probably the last nail in the coffin for UKIP. Though I don’t agree with him, I’d far prefer to see a pro-brexit group led by Farage than one with Batten in charge and containing the one who must not be named (by his actual double barreled moniker).

  43. @ALEC

    Amongst all the predictions of meltdown for the traditional parties in the EP elections, I was also pondering how the pro Brexit vote is deeply fractured.

    Not sure about that – if the Brexit party can be more or less level pegging with UKIP before Niggle has even got his face on the TV, I suspect they might well end up substantially ahead once he starts actually making people aware there’s a difference.

    Could be an interesting regional variance tho, between areas where UKIP had significant support previously and those where they didn’t.

    Tories are plummeting in the polls,

    I may have missed something but I thought the gist from the limited EP polling so far was that the Tories were generally holding steady and Lab were going up?

  44. @Danny

    “You picked the ground to fight on by posting the link to gdp figures of your own choice. Those figures show no indication of the different periods you mention now. They clearly show one steady growth rate before joining, and a second considerably higher rate after, extending right up to now. yes, a few wobbles in the tend, but basically very constant. So what apart from joining the EU happened in 73 and has persisted until now?”

    ——

    What are you talking about? With that graph I was making a different point. About a different period in time. In response to a different debate, about the Fifties and Sixties. You were the one asking about 1992 onwards.

    Why does something have to persist from 1973 till now. You wanted to know why we had decent growth from 1992 onwards, compared to before, and I explained it, it’s because although we had economic issues, it was worse in preceding couple of decades.

    And because the Nineties and 2000s saw the tech boom, fall of the Wall etc.

    But the Fifties and Sixties had even fewer economic issues, hence growth was even better.

  45. Trigguy

    “Difficult to say how this will go at this point, but my feeling is that one shouldn’t underestimate the Farage factor.”

    Especially when “the Farage factor” is helpfully combined with “the BBC factor”.

    Fortunately (in this instance), many voters are helpfully clueless about political factions which stand as parties.

    Neither Farage nor Batten will be on the ballot paper in most regions in May. UKIP and Brexit Party will be. I suspect it will be an utterly random selection between them as to which the ultra-Leavers will plump for.

  46. TriGuy,

    Agree, I am also glad that the Brexit party has formed so people who want Hard quick Brexit have a place to go that has no truck with the overt far right racism that UKIP now tolerates.

  47. Jim Jam

    “But if they don’t deliver this Brexit that I spent 25 years of my life working for, then I will be forced to don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines” seems fairly overt far right talk to me.

  48. LASZLO
    “ProfHoward

    As Farage forgot to register his party’s website and Led by Donkeys registered it (thebrexitparty.com), it will be even more challenging.”

    The party’s site is thebrexitparty.org. Presumably this is because it is not a limited company? Even if it was, it would likely be thebrexitparty.co.uk. Also, does anyone actually type in full URLs any more? Surely most would do a google search and find the correct site.
    —————————-
    ADW
    “Really, being as Remain lost once already, any second referendum should be May’s Deal -v- No Deal.. Any other choice just is not legitimate.”

    Absolutely. Indeed, you could say that Remain lost twice already, because Tories and Labour both stood on manifestos in 2017 saying that they would respect the result of the referendum.
    ———————————
    Turk
    “…but it seems the public are sick to death of Westminster and the school yard Punch and Judy show that has taken the place of serious debate no matter what side they support.”

    That is right on the money.
    ——————————-
    Danny
    “If the will of the people has changed, then carrying out a contrary outcome is going against the rules of the referendum.”

    But we don’t actually know that the will of the people has changed. That is what is being promoted by the media and you and others, but the petition was marred by many fake votes, the ‘1 million’ demo was more like 400,000 (about the same as pro-hunting a few years ago), and the polls said that Remain was ahead last time as well. The Referendum result should be enacted and then the Remainers can campaign as much as they like to rejoin the EU, but the result must be enacted first.

  49. @OLDNAT

    Or, you know, given that there are no lines and there is no war, it could be a fairly obvious metaphor for getting back involved from a guy who thought he’d retired cos he’d won already.

  50. @Pete B

    “But we don’t actually know that the will of the people has changed.”

    Yes, that’s right. But imagine if we could actually test what the will of the people was by, hmm, maybe letting them vote on the question?

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