I’ve been on holiday for the last week, but hopefully haven’t missed too much polling in the August after a general election! One thing that did happen was the Electoral Commission recommending (and the government accepting) a change in the wording of the EU referendum, from a YES/NO question to a REMAIN/LEAVE question. This raises the question of whether or not the wording makes a difference.

At the end of May ICM ran a split sample experiment, asking the then Yes/No version of the question and the remain/leave question that the Electoral Commission ended up recommending. On the Yes/No wording the result was YES 47%, NO 33%, DK 20%; on the Remain/Leave wording the result was YES 43%, NO 35%, DK 22%. Results are here.

ComRes ran a similar experiment at the same time, they asked the then Yes/No version of the question, and a more general question on whether people would vote to stay or leave in a referendum (it didn’t use the exact wording the Electoral Commission have now recommended). On the Yes/No wording the result was YES 58%, NO 31%, DK 11%. On the Stay/Leave question the result was STAY 51%, LEAVE 33%, DK 16%. Results are here.

YouGov haven’t done a split sample, but since the general election they have asked the question in two different ways – one asking the old Yes/No referendum question, and one asking if people would like Britain to remain or leave the European Union. Using the Yes/No referendum question they have found an average YES lead of 8 points. Using a question asking if people would vote for Britain to remain or stay, they have found an average REMAIN lead of 6 points (figures are here, here and here)

The scale of the difference varies between 2 and 9 points and only the ICM poll used the actual question wording. However, the general trend is clear, a remain/leave question seems to produce a smaller pro-EU lead than a yes/no question.

However, what difference the wording makes in an opinion poll is not necessarily the same question as what difference the wording makes in a referendum. An opinion poll is getting someone’s instant reaction having bombarded them with a question they may not have had a firm opinion upon until you asked. A referendum takes place after several weeks campaigning on the pros and cons on each side of the argument and what the implications and consequences of voting Yes or No (or Stay or Leave) might be. I suspect in a referendum, as opposed to an opinion poll, there is very little real difference between Yes/No and Remain/Leave.


311 Responses to “The European referendum question”

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  1. Mark Sadler

    What colourful language you use! Thank heavens you weren’t being partisan as well. :-)

  2. TOH
    ‘I think those days are long gone, especially when the boundary commision has done it’s work and the HoC has been reduced to 600’

    It remains far from certain that the reduction in HOC will get through.

  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34179201

    179 UK soldiers killed…

    Dear oh dear: and sadly there are going to be 10s if not 100s of such odious comments and observations that can be dredged up week after week month after month.

  4. @candy

    No I did not miss the point. I simply said that “genuine refugee” covers more than starving women and children. I made no comment on Merkel ‘s policy and approach so why you should direct one of your typically excitable comments at me I am at a loss to understand.

  5. ‘Panorama asked Mr Corbyn whether he had supported the right of Iraqis to attack British soldiers ‘

    On what basis did the Iraqis NOT have the right to attack the forces that had invaded their land? Of course they did! They had as much right to do that as we would have had to attack invading German troops in 1940. It is just a pity that the British and Americans were not repelled.

  6. @Hireton

    “I made no comment on Merkel ‘s policy and approach so why you should direct one of your typically excitable comments at me I am at a loss to understand.”

    ——–

    On the plus side, if they’re directed at you, that means not directed at the rest of us.

    Well done taking one for the team, Hireton…

  7. @GRAHAM

    You’ve completely lost me with that comment. I would guess that you’ve completely lost 99% of the British public as well. There’s Left and there’s lunatic fringe.

  8. @RMJ

    I would have thought it pretty obvious that it was entirely reasonable for the Iraqis to attack the soldiers of any country seeing to invade and overrun them . Do you have a problem with that? It seems logical common sense to me.

  9. @RMJ

    Let us suppose it had been the Russians invading Iraq. Would you have supported the Iraqis’ right to defend themselves? Of course you would. So why not against any other invading army? As Graham says, it’s common sense…. unless you think that the UK and the USA are above international law …..

  10. Graham and John B,

    The problem with your responses is that the issue RMJ1 rightly focused on was “Is this the kind of thing the British public will like?” rather than “Was Corbyn right?”

    We don’t need a discussion on the Iraq War etc.

  11. Bill Patrick

    But context is everything here! Who put the British soldiers in harms way etc? Corbyn will say he would not have sent them and thus their lives would have been saved.

  12. @”But context is everything here!”

    Yep-there’s going to a lot of it about after Saturday.

  13. I am making an assumtion here, but I think that the majority of the electorate would expect a potential Leader of the Opposition and even potential Prime Minister to be on the side of the British forces, even if he disagreed with his own previous leader who sent them into harm’s way.

  14. Bill Patrick

    Don’t know if you watched the Panorama programme. The context was that Panorama had “discovered” (I never thought it was a secret!) that Corbyn was a Stop the War Coalition delegate to a conference in Egypt which endorsed “military struggle against Coalition forces in Iraq”.

    Beeb interpreted that as “attacks on British soldiers” and claimed “Corbyn didn’t answer”.

    This last technique is a Beeb favourite, when they don’t like the answer they have been given to one of their rather distorted questions.

  15. Graham and Oldnat,

    I don’t know about the context, because I don’t watch Panorama, or TV in general.

  16. (My aim was purely to head off a disgression into Iraq, ethics, international law etc. Whatever Corbyn said and what impact- if any- it might have, seems to be more our area of interest.)

  17. “I wonder if the BBC might not be the shining paragon so stoutly defended here , after tonight’s Panorama ?”

    ——–

    Oh, are you after a BBC bias debate? Good job AW’s back from his hols in time ‘cos he loves those BBC bias debates.

  18. Or he just loves modding them. Dunno, because I’ve never done the BBC bias debate thing…

  19. Bill Patrick

    Since you didn’t see the programme, don’t you think that it ill behoves you to post on here trying to put RMJ’s comment “into context” when the original point was made specifically about Panorama’s question?

  20. We could even debate the BBC bias regarding the ethics of the Iraq War in relation to international law.

    On second thoughts, let us not go there. It is a silly place.

  21. Oldnat,

    Nope, I think I’m well-behoved. I could follow RMJ1’s 8:52 comment and the debate in which it took place, without having seen the programme, well enough to know that his point wasn’t about whether Corbyn was right.

  22. Carfrew

    Re alleged BBC Bias

    Padraig Post on BBC Alba has never demonstrated political bias, to my knowledge, even during the controversy over the privatisation of Royal Mail.

    Far too much generalisation in these areas for my liking.

    After all, it would have been entirely possible for the Beeb to ask Padraig (in Gaelic) “When did you stop beating your wife?” They have never done so!

  23. Bill Patrick

    Do you mean the question was about whether Corbyn was right to be part of the Stop the War Coalition?

    Or was it about whether he was right to be a delegate to the Cairo Conference?

    Or was it about whether he was right he right to ignore the Beeb’s wording of the question?

    It may well be that RMJ wasn’t making a point about Corbyn “being right” on some question – but which question? Indeed I remain wholly unclear as to which question Graham was referring to.

    Incidentally, when (specifically) did you stop beating your wife? :-)

  24. @BILL PATRICK

    “We could even debate the BBC bias regarding the ethics of the Iraq War in relation to international law.
    On second thoughts, let us not go there. It is a silly place.”

    ———

    Eh? You’re discussing the Iraq thing, not me!! That’s summat else I don’t tend to discuss, the war thing. I prefer Thorium, storage… simple uncomplicated things, like me.

    (That said, for those so inclined, combining BBC, Iraq and Corbyn into a single debate has the merit of being efficient, and would make any modding efficient too…)

  25. Carfrew,

    If you mean BBC bias on thorium, then we have a sensible topic of discussion.

  26. A rare visit to my dear old former stomping ground, now strangely and rather worryingly colonised and monopolised, or so it would appear, by a hard core rump of posters forever prattling their party political jibes. Alas, Lefty L, John Murphy, Amber Star, Alec, Howard, Mike N et al, where art thou? UKPR seems an impoverished place without you and many others whose names I can’t instantly recall.

    Anyway, just an observation that occurred to me when I watched a discussion between Owen Jones and Peter Hitchens on the Guardian website today. Why is it that people on the polar opposites of the political spectrum seem to get on much better with each other than those who bicker maliciously as they dance on the head of a pin? Think Tony Benn and Enoch Powell. Maybe they recognise a kindred spirit in each other and respect conviction as opposed to confection. Jones and Hitchens disagreed about almost everything but clearly liked each other. The conversation, accordingly, was civilised and illuminating. Compared to the shrill vacuity of say Question Time or anything Andrew Neil ends up facilitating, it was a delight. A shame it was only a six minute reprise.

    Hitchens was interesting on the Tory victory last May, and held a similar view to mine about what had occurred on that now fabled day in May. some four months ago. He got a bit Hitchens-esque when he spoke about how he had “underestimated the enormous power of lies and money” in winning elections but he was quite right to observe that there was no discernible national trend and that the Tories had secured a technical victory as opposed to a moral one. He attributed this to an extraordinarily clever and well financed campaign that had targeted a clutch of key seats, delivering a majority Tory Government on a historically low percentage share of the vote. An electoral legend in its own lunchtime, in other words, as opposed to an election where tectonic political plates shifted. Accordingly, the stories of the country turning Tory were much exaggerated, certainly in terms of popular support, although the victors are writing the history as always. That doesn’t mean, however, that the vanquished need to swallow it. Sadly, quite a few of the Labour leadership contenders seem to have done so, particularly Kendall, and I suspect the Corbyn bandwagon has been energised by this sort of timidity and defeatism from his rivals. People warm to optimism, however fanciful, rather than bleak forebodings and self-loathing.

    Back to elections, though. It’s a sobering thought that the Tories have increased their percentage vote share by a paltry 4.5% in the three elections that have occurred in the last 10 years yet have hoovered up 154 parliamentary seats in the process. That’s some return on 4.5%!

  27. “delivering a majority Tory Government on a historically low percentage share of the vote”

    For the Tories, yes. Not for any majority government.

  28. Even if you use the newly popular way of measuring government vote-shares: the percentage of the electorate, rather than the percentage of voters. It’s a great way to be able to make claims like “Only 24% of voters” etc.

  29. Crossbat,

    The discrepancies of FPTP seem so much worse when its the Tories that benefit, I know. When Labour were getting thumping majorities on barely more than a third of the vote that was of course not such an issue.

  30. Well in response to your wry observation oldnat I will not insult you with any pretence to impartiality in regards to Mr Corbyn but never the less I still believe my concerns to be quite reasonable and not overly alarmist .


  31. I am making an assumtion here, but I think that the majority of the electorate would expect a potential Leader of the Opposition and even potential Prime Minister to be on the side of the British forces, even if he disagreed with his own previous leader who sent them into harm’s way.’

    Even when such forces were being used as instruments of evil in clear breach of international law.? I wonder whether the German people felt that way about Konrad Adenauer in the 1950s in relation to any comments he made in relation to what German soldiers had done under direction from Adolf Hitler.

  32. Graham

    RE: “British troops as instruments of evil” !!

    In a hole…stop digging…etc – and pray that Corbyn et al don’t get caught saying this kind of stuff.

    Though if he has I am sure there is (again) footage of the particular ‘march’ / ‘rally’ / ‘event’ to hang around his neck at some opportune moment.

    Dear oh dear…

  33. @BILL PATRICK

    “If you mean BBC bias on thorium, then we have a sensible topic of discussion”

    ——–

    Ah well, it might be sensible, but given the current moratorium on the Beeb-bias thing, it is not for me to comment on the disgraceful paucity of coverage on the matter, or indeed on the abominable storage tax.

    (Although, the paucity of test cricket coverage is possibly worse…)

  34. Graham has a point.

    Obviously there will be a tendency to back our armed forces.

    But equally, if you simply asked the question as to whether a country has the right to defend itself from attack, many might agree with that too.

    When you combine the two, it gets interesting. Because there’s a conflict. Peeps might normally agree with both, but they’re kinda mutually exclusive. That’s why peeps are not engaging with Graham’s point, and are just sticking to the backing our forces bit.

    So, if one were to take Graham’s issue on and ask the salient question here – whether other countries have the right to defend themselves from invasion from our forces – What would be the polling response? What proportion would agree?

  35. Listening to Peter Hitchens on the achievements of the Tory Party is like learning about Margaret Thatcher from Ted Heath. You can collect the vitriol in bucket loads.

    Owen Jones is interesting-on that Panorama prog he seemed to be stood next to JC on every occasion -is he related , or just surgically attached ?

  36. Carfrew, Graham etc.

    There’s also the question of whether ‘I was just obeying orders’ is sufficient for anyone in the military. Illegality is illegality, no matter who issues the orders. And, as John Calvin rightly pointed out (in opposition to Martin Luther’s position), we have a moral duty to oppose that which is wrong, even if that means going against superior officers in the armed forces.

  37. Panorama ceased being a sensible programme a long time ago. It’s main thrust of late seems to be polemic rather than analysis. This was the case with Tory controversies and remain the case with Labour ones.

    It comes down to this: if you consider the Iraq war illegal – then the Coalition forces had no legal authority to attack and invade Iraq. In such circumstances the government and people of Iraq would have had a legal right (at the very least pursuant to Article 51 of the UN Charter) to self defence.

    However…to read from that and the conference that JC attended that he supported attacks on UK servicemen and women is a stretch. I haven’t heard any UK politician express such a view – whether within STW or elsewhere. I have also never heard JC say it on any of the demonstrations I attended in 2003.

  38. I think we can assume Corbyn hasn’t made any speeches calling for the killing of British soldiers. He has however spent plenty of time in the company of people who have. That’s not so much an issue for him as for his prominent supportter Clive Lewis who was a soldier in Afghanistan.That could be why Clive Lewis’ constituency party did not endorse Jeremy Corbyn.

  39. @Rob S

    “Enoch and Tony; Owen and Peter = ‘kindred spirits’ ? Yes I can go along with that: all 4 of them total A-holes.”

    Good to see you’ve lost none of your facility for nuance and subtle understatement! I’d only put Powell in your “A-hole” category, giving the other three the benefit of the doubt in terms of their qualities as human beings. Muddle-headed at times, maybe, plain wrong, quite possibly on occasions, but A-holes? That’s a bit strong, isn’t it? If I thought everyone I disagreed with was one of those, then I’d have to accept that the world was full of them and that’s a thought I can’t quite countenance.

    I’m still around, but only very occasionally. This is probably a little two day wonder. A couple of posts, a bit of lurking then away to concentrate on other things. On my odd visits since May, it all seems a bit monochrome on here, although I do like reading your views on our body politic. I always did, even though we fell out on the odd occasion. I think your enthusiasm for City Mayors, and my scepticism, caused a bit of a rift, but I always admired your intellect and trenchantly put views. Still do.

    I’m with you a bit on Corbyn as well. Leaving aside his politics, my objection to his possible leadership is that it will result in electoral defeat for Labour. He’s unelectable really and there’s no point putting someone in the ring who will be knocked out. Not if you’re interested in winning, that is. I’m coming at this purely from a position of expediency and pragmatism. Labour can’t and won’t win with Corbyn as leader. The tragedy is that most of the people who are voting for him know that too.

  40. @Wolf

    That’s a fair point. Of course JC has a tendency to want to talk to everyone involved in a dispute, including highly objectionable ones. He can do that as a backbencher but not as Leader of the Opposition.

  41. WOLF
    I think we can assume Corbyn hasn’t made any speeches calling for the killing of British soldiers. He has however spent plenty of time in the company of people who have. That’s not so much an issue for him as for his prominent supportter Clive Lewis who was a soldier in Afghanistan.That could be why Clive Lewis’ constituency party did not endorse Jeremy Corbyn.

    That’s a rather tortured bit of logic isn’t it?

    Surely if it’s an issue for Clive Lewis he wouldn’t have personally and vocally endorsed Corbyn?

  42. @Raf

    Just found a quote from Clive Lewis in 2010 ‘Many young black men’s
    chaotic lives would benefit from an army career but outmoded views of the military get in the way’.

  43. RAF

    Re Panorama:

    Hardly surprising when they sacked all their journalists.

  44. If anyone’s interested there’s a longer version (10 minutes) of Owen Jones interview with Peter Hitchens on Jones’s YouTube channel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTu3gVvm_K8&list=PLTYmWuFco1_089houzfDL0CzYdmlP1Wq9&index=1

    Hitchens claim that Cameron and co are not really conservatives is far from new – though of course Hitchens isn’t either, he’s a reactionary. And like most reactionaries nostalgic for an age that never happened.

    Whether the Conservative Party has ever been that conservative is another matter, but certainly since Thatcher they have concentrated more on making things better for People Like Us rather than preserving what they consider good. The problem is probably more that the People Like Us has become an increasingly smaller (and less British) group and some of their usual supporters are beginning to notice.

  45. If I recall my GCSE RE lessons (I wasn’t concentrating for most of them as I was in my insufferable trot atheist phase) just war requires there to be some meaningful chance of victory. If any Iraqi or Western lefties believed they had any chance of defeating the military forces of the USA, UK, Poland, etc., they are utterly delusional.

    As I’m given to understand, the Iraqi military made nothing like the fight of it they could have done, given a country the size of Texas was conquered in three weeks. And quite right that those who surrendered did, given they would have been utterly massacred in a straight up fight.

    On the fringes of politics finding common cause, I think it’s the strident viewpoints and coherent view of an ideal world that they find attractive in each other. I see it myself, a little. I remember Peter Oborne’s endorsement of Ed Miliband as the only man with a vision before the election.

    I have never found it useful of productive to regard any political viewpoint (with a few highly extreme exceptions such as Adolf or Pol Pot) as inherently evil. I quite like Douglas Cars well and Peter Hitchens for example, though I disagree with them on almost every particular.

    What’s really unattractive is blind certainty, on my own side as much as my opponents’ – see my distaste for many Corbynites – and lack of ambition for the country one seeks to serve. Managerialism is sometimes as damaging to politics as extremism.

    Now must go – my flight from Aberdeen to Manchester is boarding.

  46. Latest grooming gang in Aylesbury and still no sign of any attempt by the political class to get to the bottom of the scale of the problem nationally or find out why it’s happening.

    For example if a large part of the problem stems from a massively increased demand for ultra cheap prostitution over the last 16 years leading to gangs forming to supply that demand then perhaps that might figure into various debates.

    Or the political class could just carry on ignoring thousands of children being forced into prostitution.

  47. CROSSBATT11
    Nice to see ya.
    “there’s no point putting someone in the ring who will be knocked out. Not if you’re interested in winning,” That’s what they said about Clay against Liston.
    While you are here for your two days spell of slumming, could I get your take on the categorisation of migrants and its implications for immigration policy, and notably for its relevance to joining the EU Agenda programme.
    There are two factors which are relevant to policy making which become confused in the public and political debate (I’ll admit an interest since I’ve worked on this in Vietnam, Rwanda and Cambodia, where the “country of origin” process takes place):
    one is the fact that poverty becomes extreme and generates migration when population increase and land shortage occur;
    the second that conflct and the process of seeking refuge come about particularly around the use of force in seizing land and displacing people, breaching land rights and thus destroying the existing basis of civil society in doing so.

    Economic migrants are in consequence, with increasing frequency, by this and related processes, “second phase” refugees. When successful they are the selected young, educated members of families who’ve made it through forced displacement, and, whether within the country or in often illicit emigration, are tasked with providing an escape for their family.
    They are successful if they are valuable and contribute to the economy of their country of refuge.
    Ergo, as the EC has worked out, it is not good policy to make a distinction between refugees and economic migrants in planning for solutions to illicit migration or for legitimate migration, as Juncker proposes as the outcome of the Agenda programme.

  48. Peter Hitchens was a Trot.

    Anthony Howard described him thus :” “the old revolutionary socialist has lost nothing of his passion and indignation as the years have passed us all by. It is merely the convictions that have changed, not the fervour and fanaticism with which they continue to be held”

    A very nice way of describing what Hitchens says of himself :
    ” “in character, puritanical, and glad of a reason to be so”

    He used to be an atheist as well, whilst now being able to say ( 2010)
    ” “in all my experience in life, I have seldom seen a more powerful argument for the fallen nature of man, and his inability to achieve perfection, than those countries in which man sets himself up to replace God with the State”.

    For Hitchens it doesn’t much matter what you believe-provide you take an extreme & fanatical position on it.

    Hitchens is , like Corbyn, a puritanical zealot-put a poor imitation , Corbyn having been consistent in his beliefs whilst Hitchen hasn’t.

    For Hitchen its the posturing which matters.

  49. @Mrnameless

    “If I recall my GCSE RE lessons (I wasn’t concentrating for most of them as I was in my insufferable trot atheist phase) just war requires there to be some meaningful chance of victory”

    For humanitarian interventions, yes. For self-defence, no.

    Basically there are two forms of legitimate warfare: self-defence and humanitarian intervention. Self-defence is mostly obvious as to meaning (if you’ve been attacked you’re entitled to defend yourself and country), but it can be stretched to cover a preventive war, where, if you know a conflict is coming, you can strike first to bring it to an end faster (as Israel did in the Six-Day War). This is, of course, the real importance of the WMD 45 minutes claim in relation to Iraq, so it could be categorized as a war of self-defence.

    In humanitarian intervention, they are legitimate when: there is a clear, and definite moral outrage that renders notions of self-determination meaningless (e.g. a genocide); the war is fought for just reasons (e.g. to stop genocide); it does not turn into a war of conquest; there is a reasonable chance of success; there is a clearly define exit strategy (which includes post-conflict reconstruction, stabilization etc. work if necessary).

    These are the two, and the only two, forms of warfare that are legitimate. Of course one can fight a legitimate war illegitimately as well; but I won’t go into that as it’s more complicated (in brief, though: combatants are legitimate targets, non-combatants are illegitimate targets. The fuzziness enters when it comes time to define these two terms (a simple task you’d think, but no)).

    That is the benefit of my wisdom, having taught the subject (though not in an RE setting). Have a good flight :)

  50. @Mrnameless

    Although flying Aberdeen to Manchester must be a bit like swapping one circle of Hell for another…

    @Colin

    “For Hitchen its the posturing which matters.”

    A slightly unfair, but also surprisingly apt, description of both brothers

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