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. Sam
    The answer to your question is no, there are some elements of the WA which I quite like but the backstop is unacceptable to me.

    Alan
    “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?”

    Nice to hear from you again. I hope things are working out for you. You were the one who sounded despondent when we talked last.
    It looks as though you were correct and both of us will be unhappy with the final outcome. All I was doing yesterday was saying how I felt about the whole sorry mess, and then moving on. Hopefully you have done the same.

  2. @TOH

    I think you might agree that the way Brexit has been handled, may mean that referendums are not a trusted way of finding out public opinion.

    I have always thought that there would be a second referendum on Brexit, because the first referendum was flawed in the way it was run.

    If there are going to be two official campaigning sides, representing in this case remain or leave, then there should have been rigorous standards set on what each campaign was allowed to promote.

    Even though I supported remain, I would argue that Government spending £9 million on a pro remain brochure was not really fair and most likely backfired. The leave campaign should not have been allowed to run the advert with £350 million a week for the NHS.

    I have always believed that Brexit would never be delivered, because a second referendum held with much more information, is likely to have a remain outcome. And this is not really because of the EU and any positive sides to membership. It is because a leave vote would mean that UK Politicians would become involved in years and years of trade negotiations with countries all over the world, with plenty of games being played. Trade negotiations become so political, as one deal can never be looked at in isolation. For example any UK trade deal with China would have to consider trade deals with EU and US etc.

    Brexit was never a straightforward proposition and people should have been told much more information, so they could make an informed decision. If a subject is too complex, then don’t hold a referendum at all.

  3. EDGE OF REASON

    Brexit / English phenomenon

    Not just the size of England but also its desire, by a narrow margin, to leave the EU.

  4. Carfrew,
    ” With that graph I was making a different point. About a different period in time.”

    Indeed you were. It amused me that when i looked at the full range of data all the way to now instead of stopping where you did, it showed a very remarkable and clear great improvement in the UK economy happening at just the time we joined the EU.

    You then changed the subject and picked some different data to look at.

    “Why does something have to persist from 1973 till now.”

    It doesnt have to, but the fact that the Uk economy on this data received a remarkable boost from the time we joined the EU all the way to now…would appear to me a huge endorsement of membership.

    “You wanted to know why we had decent growth from 1992 onwards,”

    No i didnt. I wanted to know what apart from joining might explain something which happened in 1973 and continued to boost the Uk economy to this date.

    The next question which arises would be, if membership doubled Uk growth but now we leave, would we expect growth to halve back to its original level, or maybe would we expect it to fall far more than that because industry which was attracted ti the Uk during membership starts to leave. So maybe we would not return to trend growth before membership, but maybe half that again? That is a huge cost of leaving not modelled anywhere!

    The implications would seem to be a rather worse economic crisis in the Uk than Greece recently experienced.

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

    Do you not see the logical contradiction of your position? We do believe the position has changed, and the way to find out is to have a referendum. Anyone who believes the position has not changed ought to be content that a second referndum would be money well spent to stop the argument about whether view has changed, by holding the referendum and confirming it has not. Dont you see it is a win for democracy whatever the result?

    It settles the matter, which otherwise will drag on forever. The question put has to be a clear cut choice which can be implemented straight away. So a clear plan to be accepted or rejected.

    I suggested some while ago asking two questions, remain or accept no deal, and remain or accept deal. That way the nations is asked if it wants either possible sort of leave. It would be better of the government could at least have one version of leaving which it recommended and put to the people, but clearly they do not believe there is any acceptable form of leave.

  6. Well, looks like I was right that there wasn’t a lot of common ground between TIG and the other minor parties…
    https://leftfootforward.org/2019/04/pro-eu-parties-hit-out-at-independent-group-lie-over-peoples-vote/

    A Lib Dem source told Left Foot Forward:
    “Currently the Independent Group is a hashtag and a collection of branded lanyards.”

    Ouch. I did say that an actual alliance between LD and TIG was unlikely since their policies are pretty different except for Brexit … but I didn’t expect it to get to open hostility quite this fast.

  7. R HUCKLE

    “I think you might agree that the way Brexit has been handled, may mean that referendums are not a trusted way of finding out public opinion.”

    No, I cannot totally agree with that, but with hindsight I can agree with:

    “Brexit was never a straightforward proposition and people should have been told much more information, so they could make an informed decision.”

    Quite how you do that in a totally unbiased way is another and difficult question. I was quite clear that there would be a short to medium term costs if we left in a meaningful way but it appears many were not. Both campaigns were awful IMO.

  8. The Other Howard,
    “The answer to your question is no, there are some elements of the WA which I quite like but the backstop is unacceptable to me.”

    The EU has said that there cannot be any form of trade deal wih the Uk which does not include the backstop. none at all.

    Is the Uk capable of surviving without an EU trade deal? See my comments to Carfrew, about the likelihood of UK GDP growth halving if we leave the EU, and the implications for the sustainability of our current debt and deficit if it does?

    I think it isnt so much a cliff edge as an abyss. The government has stared in and discovered it dare not go there.

  9. CIM – as other have analysed under D’Hondt both LDs and Change could get around 10% and not get seats except in the 6 seat and above areas perhaps.

    I would expect the LDs do do better than 10% in some parts of the country, West of England, SEast England and London.

    Change may just get 1 or 2 seats overall but doubt a breakthrough and none would not shock me but SEast England (10) and London (8) should provide 1 each for them.
    NB) I reckon none for Change in the North and Midlands, even with the 8 seat NWest as I think LDs better placed to get hard remain votes.

    PC and SNP will be better in Wales and Scotland of course than change with LDs holding their own.

  10. @Danny

    “Indeed you were. It amused me that when i looked at the full range of data all the way to now instead of stopping where you did, it showed a very remarkable and clear great improvement in the UK economy happening at just the time we joined the EU.

    You then changed the subject and picked some different data to look at.”

    ——

    I didn’t change the subject. I answered your question. You wanted to know why things had improved in the period you chose. That meant contrasting it with the preceding period, which I did,

    I gave alternative reasons as to why things had improved. Because the Wall came down, IT boom etc., and because the things hampering previously, oil crisis etc., no longer pertained.

    I fairly addressed your question. To call that a change of subject is tantamount to trolling. You know better.

  11. Not good news for Con or CHUK.

    Britain Elects
    ?

    @britainelects
    17m
    17 minutes ago

    More
    Westminster voting intention (ft. new parties):

    LAB: 32% (+1)
    CON: 28% (-4)
    LDEM: 11% (-1)
    BREX: 8% (+3)
    UKIP: 6% (-1)
    CHUK: 3% (+3)
    GRN: 3% (-1)

    via @YouGov, 10 – 11 Apr
    Chgs. w/ 03 Apr

  12. @Danny

    “It doesnt have to, but the fact that the Uk economy on this data received a remarkable boost from the time we joined the EU all the way to now…would appear to me a huge endorsement of membership.”

    ——

    Not if there are other reasons that can be given for the change, as I have showed.

    Which you haven’t disproved. Furthermore, you have given no proof the EU is responsible for the growth and since it’s your idea, the burden of proof is on you really.

  13. @danny

    “No i didnt. I wanted to know what apart from joining might explain something which happened in 1973 and continued to boost the Uk economy to this date.”

    —-

    Nah, You asked about about why the economy had improved since we joined the EU IN 1992.

    Let’s see something that shows how joining the EU did that.

    For all you haveshown, it might have been even better outside the EU!

  14. LAB: 32% (+1)
    CON: 28% (-4)
    LDEM: 11% (-1)
    BREX: 8% (+3)
    UKIP: 6% (-1)
    CHUK: 3% (+3)
    GRN: 3% (-1)

    Labour and Tory hardcore leavers gone to Brexit Party and UKIP I suspect. A small amount of disillusioned Remainers from both parties gone to Change UK. Tory and Labour merely hanging on to core voters who only care about the colour of the rosette. Labour ahead because their vote contained less hardcore Leavers than the Tories. They’re slightly less exposed to UKIP and Brexit Party. Some suggestion in the figures for all parties that the electorate is a tad Remainy?

    Fair summary anyone? I’d be keen to hear other views.

    P.S. Anybody remember how long ago it might be that the Tories were on 28% in the polls? Andrew Neil might know.

    :-)

  15. @Danny

    “The next question which arises would be, if membership doubled Uk growth but now we leave, would we expect growth to halve back to its original level, or maybe would we expect it to fall far more than that because industry which was attracted ti the Uk during membership starts to leave. So maybe we would not return to trend growth before membership, but maybe half that again? That is a huge cost of leaving not modelled anywhere!

    The implications would seem to be a rather worse economic crisis in the Uk than Greece recently experienced.”

    ——

    You have to show that it was membership that doubled the growth, not something else. (Even that isn’t necessarily sufficient, because if a lot of the growth came from immigration, rather than improved trade etc., not everyone would be keen on more of that).

  16. Pete B

    Do you think having a General Electionn would be undemocratic as it could thwart the will of the people as expressed in 2016?

    Just as asking.

  17. PETERW @ ADW @ BZ

    Thanks. Saved me a post.

  18. @THE OTHER HOWARD
    @R HUCKLE

    I often use the Iraq war as a good analogy because we actually knew nothing about the WMD, sunni shia battles, the influence of Iran. But with that lack of information 70% of the population supported the Iraq war. As people became informed and the war went badly support for the war rapidly faded

    Now lots of people say about the Iraq war that they supported it because the government told them to essentially.

    My view was that we would go through with leaving and realise it was a mistake but the genie would be out of the bottle and we would have to live with the consequences. The problem I have with both the Iraq war and Brexit was that we assumed the people opposite us would respond in the way we wanted.

    There was never any talk of No deal for example and when it stated that if we really had those red line it would automatically be no deal.

    It is why I believe LEAVE is is in such a predicament. They now cannot sell it as sunny uplands and we have all the cards. Brexit has been mis-sold. THE OTHER HOWARD has been in a minority of people that believed that Brexit would not be easy in the short or medium term( we are all dead in the long term and everything is better in the long term depending how you measure it)

    What I think the referendum teaches us is that to mix party politics (BoJo jumping at a chance to be PM) with an already complex issue would lead to disaster and to compound it by making a referendum campaign based on how the EU would react without taking account of how the EU has reacted to similar situations was in my view criminal

    In truth if the referendum had said leave the EU with no deal or remain I suspect that leavers at the time would have howled their disapproval at the fact that it was a leading question but now that is what we face and we have a view that democratically testing the opinion of the electorate is now seen as undemocratic

    If we had realised that Iraq would spawn a better version of AQ, an Iraq that was allied to Iran an increase in hoemgrown terrorism and the right wing terrorist backlash would support be a 70% or was it that we did not believe that scenario would ever happen or just did not care or did not understand

    If we had a chance to change it we would. I believe we have a chance to review brexit but I suspect that we will not. Revoking A50 lets the electorate of the hook we need to own this

  19. @crossbat11

    A Populous poll just before the 2005 GE had them on 27% – though since they got 33% in the GE a week later, was probably just plain wrong.

    Plenty between 1992 and 2001 of course which had them much lower – with 18% in a Gallup poll in early 1995 being the worst I can find.

  20. You Gov have also published an EP poll:

    European Parliament Voting Intention:

    LAB: 24% (-1)
    CON: 16% (-8)
    BXP: 15% (+15)
    UKIP: 14% (-13)
    LDM: 8% (+1)
    GRN: 8% (=)
    CHUK: 7% (+7)
    NAT: 6% (+3)

    Via @YouGov, 10-11 Apr.
    Changes w/ 2014.

  21. test

  22. SAM

    Other than numbers I don’t think there is an English effect needing an English exaplanation, but mod has me stymied as regards why.So I give up.

  23. SAM

    Other than numbers I don’t think there is an English effect needing an English exaplanation, but mod has me stymied as regards why.So I give up.

  24. OK, that worked so one last try, in bits …

    A majority in Wales also voted to Leave. In Scotland, even the “mere” 39% would be enough to ensure that an independent Scotland would be second only to rUK. In NI, the ethnic group most likely to self-profess “British” (but certainly, never, English) as an aspect of their national identity voted to Leave by the biggest margin of all.

    So this a UK effect.

  25. If it is slightly greater in Engand, this is because in other polities there is a signifcant other identity that is, for whatever reason, generally less that way inclined.

  26. Sorry about the disjointed half-argument. I seem to be falling foul of mod.

  27. 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. ”

    This claim really must be verifiable, and yet there does not seem to be any report of these council by-elections in the media or on the net.

  28. @CIM

    “A Populous poll just before the 2005 GE had them on 27%…..”

    Thanks for that. I suspected it must have been a long, long time ago. Crikey, 18% in 1995! Peak Blair, bottom Major then when even Back to Basic wasn’t working. Happy Days!

    A more general point for us poll addicts and politicos on this site. These polls are moving now, not twitching and while the re-emergence of UKIP and its ugly sister have been the most significant developments, is it now safe to assume that, finally, events have caught up with the Tories? Up to mow, the Brexit blanket obviously boosted their poll standings way beyond their overall performance in government, and continued to do so as May assumed the role of the the will of the people enforcer, and the Tory Party became the Brexit Party, but that blanket is slipping away now. I wouldn’t say the game’s entirely up, but polls can induce panic and ill discipline in political parties and the warm glow of decent poll ratings, up to now the Tories only real consolation, have gone. They’re tanking badly now. Interesting times, indeed.

    May can’t survive these polls and a terrible showing in the local elections, can she?

  29. PETERW

    The bugbear for me is that the word l¡ar is taboo but embedded in so many other words. See here.

    NB: had to save the link in archive.is because the actual URL contains l¡ar !

  30. @Carfrew (and others) –

    “You have to show that it was membership that doubled the growth, not something else.”

    While this is technically correct in terms of logic, when dealing with historic economics, it’s also something of a contrarians cop out. Logically, you also need to prove that the doubling of growth was caused by something other than EU membership, if you wish to use this argument against others.

    Clearly, there is a problem here, as we can’t isolate economic data to just a single variable, so we are looking at correlations that don’t necessarily mean causation.

    I’ve taken a slightly different tack to the GDP argument, and instead focused on trade, and in particular on exports. I’ve used a HoC Library paper on trade statistics dating from 2012 reference SNEP 6211. Looking at exports would, I suggest, give a better idea of how UK’s trade opportunities were affected by a major change like joining the EEC. I have ignored imports, as these will be more affected by domestic economic matters. Flowing from this, I’ve ignored balance of trade issues, but will come back briefly to comment on those shortly.

    The export data shows that for goods, the average annual growth in total exports for the 10 years prior to joining the EU in 1973 was an impressive 9.11%, but for the ten years immediately after joining was a staggering 18.68%.

    The picture for services exports was even better, with the pre membership 10 year average growth running at 11.1% while the post joining figure was 16.1%.

    If we narrow the time period down to the five years immediately pre and post joining, thus hopefully focusing more on the specific impact of EEC membership, for goods the average annual growth figures are 12.61% pre and 27.45% (!!!) post, while for services they are 14.81% pre and 23.69% post.

    The figures make clear that UK exports for goods and services were doing pretty well for the decade before we joined, but achieved staggering growth in the immediate aftermath.

    From this data source I can’t give you a detailed breakdown of country by country data, but there are some good indicators that suggest the impact on exports was indeed down to EEC membership.

    Looking at total exports, the decade from 1960 shows UK exports to the US rose by a total of 114%, and from the decade after 1970 by 368%.

    The same figure for Ireland shows as 174% against 575%, but for Germany it is 137% to 877% and for the Netherlands it is 156% compared to 885%.

    While these figures don’t precisely match with the date of EEC entry, they are pretty close, and the figures are stark. The UK was able to wrack up vast increases in exports to EEC member states which massively outstripped the healthy increases to the US over the same time periods.

    For those not keen on UK membership of the EU, the obvious comeback to these statistics is that there was a similar, if more pronounced growth pattern in imports, which created a dramatic worsening of the trade balance in goods (although an improving one for services) and that therefore EU membership has been bad for the UK.

    My comeback on that would be that our lack of competitiveness against imports is more to do with other factors within the UK economy (investment, reliance on the city, lack of skills training etc) and that distilling the analysis to exports only gives a clearer picture of the benefits brought by EU membership.

    Of course, these figures remain correlations, not causal proof, but such is the strength of the export trade data in the period immediately before and after EEC membership, I rather think that the burden of proof needs to shift to you to prove why such a stark uplift in UK exports is not explained by our joining the EEC.

  31. With the advent of the Brexit party I expect to see significant changes in opinions in EU polls in the weeks and months ahead away from Remain back towards Leave. They will inject new impetus into the Brexit argument.

    May dilly dallying has caused this, the genie is now out of the bottle. I see one or two prominent Leavers are now starting to embrace the idea of a second referendum. I always said I thought it would end up just being a reaffirmation of the result of the first referendum and I’m more convinced than ever now.

  32. Danny
    “I suggested some while ago asking two questions, remain or accept no deal, and remain or accept deal. ”

    That would make sense except for the fact that remain has already lost twice, so shouldn’t be on the ballot at all. We have been over this several times and are never going to agree, so I’m going to drop the subject now.
    ————————-
    Valerie
    “Do you think having a General Electionn would be undemocratic as it could thwart the will of the people as expressed in 2016?”

    We had one in 2017 which confirmed the result of the referendum. How many goes do you want? I suppose we’d keep going until you get the result you require. Would one a year be about right?
    ———————–
    It’s all up to our Nige now.

  33. bantams

    not sure about that…Remain is pretty emboldened too

    Will be close again but this time both sides will actually turn up!

  34. @CB11

    “Fair summary anyone? I’d be keen to hear other views.”

    “Tory and Labour merely hanging on to core voters who only care about the colour of the rosette.”

    To expand on this, I think it’s as much the fear of the other rosette getting in at the national level. I’d love to have a poll on how voters would vote if their ‘traditional main opposing party’ was not in the running in their seat.

    The Lib Dems should be sweeping the board with the two big parties losing votes, but the 2010-15 coalition and the extra options (and indeed the very idea that extra, more realistic options are available) has dented their VI, I feel.

    It’s interesting that England’s political parties struggle to come up with a new party that isn’t a subset of an old one. The Brexit party is a new, clean, fresh UKIP. CHUK is the answer to all those Lab and Con floaters that struggle to choose between the big two, but definitely want a Remain result.

    The Lib Dems have either dropped the ball big time, or were never going to get it, because of recently history. Ashdown and Kennedy are no longer with us. Ming is in the other place, and Cable is retiring.

    Half of their MPs have majorities of less than 3K (Farron on 777). Davey and Brake are the only remaining ‘seniors’ on the party. Swinson and Carmichael are the only ‘known’ Scots Lib Dems. Both will probably retain their seats in future elections, but have past baggage.

    While the SNP could be considered a pro-Indy version of Labour in many ways, some just look at how SLab MPs and MSPs behave and don’t see the Labour Party any more (or not the one they expect to see). Labour will vote with the Tories to block the SNP at every turn, despite the SNP sharing near-identical ideologies on many subjects. This, coupled with the Better Together campaign gained Labour the moniker ‘Red Tories’, and with the Lib Dems going into coalition with Cameron, it’s no wonder the SNP did well in 2015.

    Now that the SNP is championing policies that Labour used to, Labour are permanently in the huff, and refuse to work with them (presumably using the “All they want is a 2nd ref” excuse for any disagreement).

    Consider the baby boxes. Whether or not it’s worthwhile, it’s no worse than food banks and received constant criticism and disdain from opposition parties. Meanwhile, some MPs in England & Wales in Labour are supporting them. Also consider the new Forth bridge. ‘The Party of Business’ (Scottish Conservatives) has opposed it throughout its building and after it opened. Why?

    Politics. Party before country. And party before country has resulted in Con, Lab and Lib struggling now.

    #LooongPost

  35. The YouGov write-up has one of those nice vote transfer figures:

    https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/04/13/tories-and-labour-face-uphill-struggle-european-el

    Though it’s getting quite messy and difficult to interpret, even though they’d grouped the leave parties and remain parties (separately, of course). The tab show right/wrong to leave still at typical values of 41/48, it’s been a while since they’ve moved far from that.

  36. @CB11

    “Anybody remember how long ago it might be that the Tories were on 28% in the polls? “

    From my 2011 to 2016 data (YouGov only):

    10/06/2013 – 28%
    21/05/2013 – 27%
    08/05/2013 – 27%
    10/04/2013 – 28%

    Plus another dozen 29% polls in early and mid 2013, with the last 29% in December of that year. Mostly down to UKIP in the mid-term coalition woes, and before Labour voters started considering UKIP as an option. See the 2013 average:

    Lab 40%
    Con 32%
    UKIP 12%
    Lib 10%
    Green 2%
    Others 4%

  37. Danny

    “I think it isnt so much a cliff edge as an abyss. The government has stared in and discovered it dare not go there.”

    Make up your mind, wasn’t it you that said May never wanted to take us out properly and that was her plan all along?

    I agree some MP’s are clearly “frit”. They probably convinced themselves with their own project fear. :-)

  38. CB – yes Tory+UKIP+BP at 42% (GE) or 45% (EP).

    With Lab+SNP+LD+G+PC+Ch 53% in the EP one but PC/SNP not mentioned in GE one.

    Does suggest slightly remain sentiment although we don’t know how much of SNP, PC and Lab VI is leave but not enough to change their vote and/or Soft Leave; and how much of this is balanced out by some remain Tories sticking as none of the remain parties or Labour (remain/soft leave fence) attract.

    NB) Will be some odd anomalies like a few LD leavers but not enough to affect broad conclusions.

  39. Careful Alec – you’ll be accused of “trolling” with all these facts.

  40. PETER W

    We have had discussions here before about why people voted the way they did in the EU referendum.

    The research conclusions seem to be that those with a more “authoritarian”, socially Conservative outlook voted Leave in large numbers. These are people who are older and are less well educated. They also have concerns about the social effects of immigration.

    The Brexit result has brought about a much more polarised England and heightened anti EU feeling. Within England, those who described themselves as British were less likely to vote Leave than those who felt themselves to be English. And within England being British has been associated with a multi-culture society. It is this, I think, that Earls may have been saying. His conclusion is that this divide and increased dislike of the EU will persist in England and will affect how the EU works.

    Within Scotland people did follow the English pattern, voting Leave in the older groups and less well educated. The numbers taking this path were fewer in Scotland than England.

    The difference in Scotland was that the SNP campaigned for Remain and among those who support Scottish independence, Independence in the EU was the way to vote.

    http://blog.whatscotlandthinks.org/2016/10/why-did-scotland-vote-to-remain/

  41. There was a very good example this morning of the type of misdirection and blinkered thinking regarding Brexit that Peter Oborne observed when he accepted he had made a mistake in voting leave.

    On BBC R4 we had Michael Howard on Today, painfully demonstrating how little he understands what Brexit is about, even after everything we’ve been through.

    he was being interviewed by Nick Robinson about what next, and Howard stuck to the idea that we need to renegotiate the backstop within the WA. When challenged about the impossibility of this, he used evidence from Varadker and others within the EU who have said that there will be no hard border within Ireland, even after a no deal.

    This, said Howard, was proof that the EU would capitulate on the backstop if the UK faced them down, and that we can therefore agree a new WA.

    Unfortunately Robinson failed to nail this one, as is so often the case with BBC journalists, but Howard’s statements were completely missing the point. The EU has already openly stated that there doesn’t need to be any backstop as per the WA, if the UK agreed some minor additional checks between NI and the UK. We refused to consider that, so the backstop remains immutable within the WA.

    This is precisely the magical thinking that Oborne had the grace and intelligence to concede was his error. We can have Brexit, but we can’t have the Brexit he wanted. That Brexit is not possible, and so, in Oborne’s case, he opted to accept he was wrong and switch to support remain.

    Others are not so bright, so continue to blame everyone else, from May to the Speaker to some kind of dark remainer forces. Anything, in fact, except recognise the obvious, that they fell for an impossible scenario that no one could deliver.

  42. @pete B – “We had one in 2017 which confirmed the result of the referendum. ”

    I suppose it did. The GE showed that the majority of the UK wanted a soft Brexit, not May’s Brexit.

    But I don’t think this is what you mean?

  43. PASSTHEROCKPLEASE
    “I often use the Iraq war as a good analogy……………”

    Thank you for an interesting post at 10.25.
    Interesting your comparison with the Iraq war. At the time I supported the war with Iraq thinking that SH was sufficient threat to the peace of the Middle East that he needed dealing with. I was appalled at the lack of planning to bring about stable democratic government afterwards but that does not mean the decision to go to war was wrong.

    So, in a sense I agree with your comparison, because with Brexit I remain convinced it is our best long term interest to be outside the EU, but am appalled about how Government and Parliament have screwed it up. Again, that does not make the referendum decision, in this case the peoples, wrong.

    “Revoking A50 lets the electorate of the hook we need to own this”.
    I don’t think the majority of voters ever take the blame, so I don’t agree with your final comment.

    Bantams
    “With the advent of the Brexit party I expect to see significant changes in opinions in EU polls in the weeks and months ahead away from Remain back towards Leave. They will inject new impetus into the Brexit argument.”

    I think you may have a point there, Farage (Like him or loath him) is a good campaigner.

  44. Lord A’s opinion on his 2016 stats [from 2019-02-04] is worth a read if you haven’t already done so.

    His closing remarks were:
    More than three quarters (77%) of those who voted to remain thought “the decision we make in the referendum could have disastrous consequences for us as a country if we get it wrong”. More than two thirds (69%) of leavers, by contrast, thought the decision “might make us a bit better or worse off as a country, but there probably isn’t much in it either way”.

    Could that para have made May even more stubborn than before?

    See How the UK voted on Brexit, and why – a refresher.

  45. un fil nouveau

  46. NICKP

    Merci!

  47. Alec

    “Others are not so bright, so continue to blame everyone else, from May to the Speaker to some kind of dark remainer forces. Anything, in fact, except recognise the obvious, that they fell for an impossible scenario that no one could deliver.”

    That of course is your just your view, unecessary slight included. Some do have very different views from your own, and that does not make them any less bright than you are, I would suggest.

  48. @ Sam

    I’m sure I read recently that people in the mid to late forties category were the most likely to change from Remain to Leave in the event of a second referendum which reinforce your argument about oldies driving the Leave vote.

    The educational argument is an interesting one, it could be argued either way that those with less education are more likely to be unencumbered free thinkers or that they are more likely to be culturally blinkered in their views.

    The same could be said of more educated people, depending on any bias in tutelage they could be free thinkers or blinkered in a different way to those less educated. You just need to look at the right wing and left wing in Parliament to give some sustenance to these arguments.

  49. Edau newydd

  50. STATGEEK

    The 93% uptake of Baby Boxes suggests the scheme is useful and as much for the content of the boxes than the box.

    https://www.parentclub.scot/baby-box

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