A quick note on two EU referendum polls from the end of last week. One was by Survation, conducted for the Leave.EU campaign – tables are here. Topline figures there were Remain 47%, Leave 53%. This is interesting mostly because it shows a lead for Leave when the overwhelming majority of polling shows Remain with a narrow lead (the last poll to put leave ahead was YouGov in September). All the polls so far using the referendum question are here.

The other data was from the British Election Study face-to-face survey. This is not new data by any means, the fieldwork was conducted between May and September (mostly in May, June and July). It found referendum voting intentions of Remain 61%, Leave 39%. On the face of it this looks interesting – as discussed last week the face-to-face BES sample avoided some of the problems of the pre-election polls and got the recalled Conservative lead over the Labour party about right. Is this potentially a sign that the mainsteam polling on the EU referendum could also be getting it wrong, and be understating the Remain lead? I would be very cautious before drawing any such conclusions, not least because of the timing of the fieldwork – polls now may be showing only small leads for Remain, but back in May to July when most of the BES fieldwork was done there were some bigger leads, especially from MORI and ComRes telephone polls, which had Remain at 63%, 65% and 75% in polls at the time.

53 Responses to “Some more EU Referendum polling data”

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  1. The obvious question is why a poll commissioned by Leave.EU should be so out of line with others.

  2. In pre-election polling, Survation gave way higher vote shares to UKIP than other pollsters, by the way.

  3. In answer to Somerjohn, possibly for the same reason the (allegedly) rigged CBI Poll showed a disproportionate number of Businesses in Favour of staying in. But the raw data in this Poll isn’t that far out of line with recent other polls which are not showing huge majorities either way, and as recently as September there was a poll showing a ‘leave’ majority. The fact is that these are pretty ‘soft’ answers for the l,est committed 40% of the electorate. The public hasn’t really put its’ mind to how it will finally vote yet. See what happened in the final two weeks of the Scottish Referendum. And that was a more serious decision than even this one is.The public is also susceptible to the daily peaks of expectation and troughs of disappointment in the ‘renegotiations’ itself. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a ‘leave’ spike, which will subside over time, following the Paris incidents and some reaction as well to what is sure to be a serious dent in Labour’s majority in the Oldham West By Election. If UKIP even manages to win it, it will give the ‘leave’ campaign momentum for a while, But I doubt if any of this will make much difference when the actual referendum takes place. This will all become clearer after the ‘renegotiations’ have finished and Cameron gives his recommendation. Some of it might even be determined by the popularity of the government at the time of the referendum. In the meantime these polls are not at all reliable as a predictor of the final outcome.

  4. Recent events such as the Paris atrocities and unfettered immigration into the EU might strengthen the Leave case, as there is a perception that if we control our own borders they will be more secure than if we are in the EU.

    I do understand that many terrorists in France (and UK and elsewhere) are ‘home-grown’, but some voters will have a perception that there is no need to gratuitously add to them.

  5. @Ronald Olden

    Thanks for your considered response. It seems we have two possible explanations: either we can expect a lot of variability when people haven’t engaged fully with an issue and their answers are therefore ‘soft’; or the organisations commissioning polls are getting the answers they want, presumably through selection of the poller whose methodology happens to favour their point of view, or by careful question selection.

    If the answer is the latter, it doesn’t reflect well on the polling industry.

  6. I shall be very interested to see the latest EU poll to be published after the Paris atrocities on Friday. I know the UK is not part of the Schengen Agreement, but the fact that open borders in the EU are becoming entangled with the issues of immigration and terrorism, I wonder if a general aversion to the EU as a political concept may grow in the UK.

    As I say, the next poll may well tell us if the Leave campaign has received a shot in the arm from the recent tragic events in France. My suspicion is that it will, as might UKIP in the forthcoming by-election.

  7. I wonder whether terrorist attacks in Paris will in fact strengthen the case to remain? We will need to co-operate in order to defeat ISIS.

    Does anyone know whether there will be any polling on air strikes against Syria?

  8. Personally what I am wondering about is not the net impact of terrorism on the leave/remain balance, but on the insistence of most of our EU partners that freedom of movement is a core principle of membership and that under no circumstances can it be interfered with.

    Is it possible that the re-imposition of border controls across many Schengen countries may give Cameron a foot in the door for modifying this principle?

  9. The survation poll was the first to be done after Camerons letter to Tusk was published. Its not possible to definitely attribute the swing to this but its out there nonetheless. The real test is other polls conducted after the publication to see if there is any similar swing.

  10. @Neila

    But surely freedom of movement to live and work doesn’t necessarily mean no border controls. After all that principle of the EU predated Schengen. The difficult issue for Cameron to negotiate is that the principle does not necessarily mean freedom of movement to claim benefits ( made a little more tricky to negotiate perhaps with the rest of the EU after the revelation that the UK has assured the Republic of Ireland that any change in that respect will not apply to its citizens)

  11. I don’t understand why the Schengen agreement is so vital. It’s always been possible to live and work abroad. Does it mean anything other than you don’t have to take your passport with you when travelling between countries that are in Schengen?

  12. It’s more than that, Pete. The border between Schengen countries is literally like the border between England and Wales. If you weren’t paying attention to the colour/language of the signs, you wouldn’t even know you’d crossed from Germany to Denmark.

    From a law enforcement perspective, I imagine it creates situations like US criminals making a dash for the state line, knowing the police can’t follow them.

  13. PETE B
    Does it mean anything other than you don’t have to take your passport with you when travelling between countries that are in Schengen?

    It doesn’t mean that at all. You DO have to have an official identity document with you in most [perhaps all] Schengen countries. What it does mean is that you don’t get stopped on a regular basis when crossing borders.

  14. NEIL A
    From a law enforcement perspective, I imagine it creates situations like US criminals making a dash for the state line, knowing the police can’t follow them.

    Even that isn’t quite the case. Many Schengen countries have cross-border police agreements. High Savoy and Republic of Geneva police, for example, cross the international border [which in many countries cases are not contiguous] by mutual agreement all the time.

  15. @PeteB

    It’s to do with the expense.

    If you are an island, all you have to do is control the ports and airports. It’s hard to make a north sea crossing safely in a leaky boat. The Channel is so full of freight traffic, it’s constantly monitored by both British and French coast guard to prevent accidents – which also makes it hard for people to arrive by boat without being noticed.

    If you have long land borders, then you need to control every single country road. It would cost billions and billions, and none of the countries have the spare dosh.

    What Hollande is doing is a better solution – which is declare a state of emergency and use those emergency powers to conduct a thorough sweep of everyone on their watch list (which they couldn’t do before because of bottlenecks in the judiciary system). I understand that they’ve even found a rocket launcher! Of course the terrorists could then try to bring people and guns back into the country via schengen, but that would take time and money. Belgium really needs to conduct a full sweep too. It would set back the cells for a couple of years, which buys time to work out a more permanent strategy to defeat Daesh,

  16. NeilF – there wasn’t any significant swing, you need to compare like to like. The previous Survation poll in Sept was Remain 40%, Leave 43%, so pretty much no change.

  17. “Recent events such as the Paris atrocities and unfettered immigration into the EU might strengthen the Leave case, as there is a perception that if we control our own borders they will be more secure than if we are in the EU.”

    As before, I’m with @Neil A on this one.

    There may be a short term poll nudge, but events in Paris has crystalised concerns over borders and travel that have been building throughout the summer migrant crisis. This now has the very close attention of governments across the EU.

    I would be extremely suprised if the relaxed border controls both surrounding and within the EU remain unaltered after the last few months events. For understandable historical reasons, many EU nations have a morbid fear of being trapped behind borders in a way UK citizens tend not to have, but the grave security implications are now allied to less noble sentiments on immigrants, creating a powerful head of steam for reforms.

    I rather think Paris will ultimately help Cameron get some reforms.

  18. I also rather think that Labour will suffer a polling impact from reporting of Corbyn’s comments. I think he has made a big mistake here, and failed to judge the mood in an interview situation.

    Personally, I think his answer was fine, in the sense that he was raising the dangers of a shoot to kill policy, but the questioner specifically mention Paris, and Corbyn’s answer looked dramatically wrong. No sane person would agree that law enforcement officers shouldn’t shoot dead the gunmen in a Paris style situation. That wasn’t actually what Corbyn said, but it is what it sounded like.

    I think Labour have a real presentational problem on the general security and defence front, based entirely on Corbyn’s noble views and his inability to articulate those in a way that doesn’t make him sound weak. This will keep haunting him until he gets a clearer idea how to answer those kinds of questions.

    They will keep on coming (no one has asked Cameron about shoot to kill) as people know the answer will be a story. Corbyn should have stuck to the simple formula that defines the law – law enforcement officers (and anyone else, as far as I am aware) can hurt or kill someone if they can justify their actions under British law, which seems sensible enough. That’s all Corbyn needed to have said.

  19. The biggest problem for Labour is that the Tax Credit issue, where they had the Tories on the back foot, and where Corbyn could speak with real passion about something that most voters (and crucially, other Labour MPs) would agree with him about, has been pushed off the news agenda completely. It gives Osborne breathing space to conjure some magic tricks whilst no one’s looking.

    Labour has gone from their best territory to their worst, thanks to a run of terrorism stories.

  20. @Alec

    You can also add the fact significant parts of the PLP seem quite happy to join in criticising ‘presentational ambiguities’.

    They seem to trying really hard to ensure Corbyn will not to succeed.

  21. On the subject of enforcing borders within the EU, and carrying ID; I live in France, near the Spanish border, and we don’t normally carry any ID when going across the border (we may start now I suppose) and it’s difficult anyway to tell whether one is in Spain or France on a lot of small roads. There has never been surveilance of most of these crossings, and it would mean a huge change to the way of life of a lot of people if it was introduced now.
    There are anyway, loads of places where it’s possible to walk across on footpaths.

  22. CMJ

    Its not that they don’t want him to succeed as such-its just that some of them have deep disagreements on hugely important matters of principle.

    Today in HoC was a painful reminder of that :-

    “In remarks to David Cameron in the Commons on Tuesday, McFadden asked: “May I ask the prime minister to reject the view that sees terrorist acts as always being a response or a reaction to what we in the west do? Does he agree that such an approach risks infantilising the terrorists and treating them like children, when the truth is that they are adults who are entirely responsible for what they do?”

    Cameron, who had given his statement on the Paris attacks and the G20 summit to the house, said to McFadden: “It is that sort of moral and intellectual clarity that is necessary in dealing with terrorists.”


  23. NeilA

    Well, at least Labour since 2013 has ensured that Cameron wants to bomb the correct side this time.

  24. Not that a few bombs will make the slightest difference to ISIS.

  25. @CMJ – as @Colin points out, there are genuine issues within Labour, with some/many thinking that Corbyn is plain wrong on such matters. As I said above, most decent people can appreciate various shades of complexity around broader issues of how to deal with terrorism, but when faced with a choice of having a policeman shoot or not shoot someone who is about to kill members of the public indiscriminately, the answer would be clear. Corbyn didn’t seem to get this, and that is terribly damaging. I like the guy, but feel his answer was a total shocker.

    On the wider issues, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the knee jerk reaction of ‘bomb Syria’ is appearing less reasonable by the day. The attackers came from Belgium, through completely porous European borders with zero security, with watch lists going unchecked on EU external borders and an almost laughable lack of security awareness among the gatekeepers of the EU’s borders.

  26. On the matter of border controls, it should be remembered that some European conurbations cross national boundaries.

    I have crossed two Schengen borders on foot. The first is the Franco-Swiss border at Moillesulaz (between Geneva and Annemasse) where the border is separated by a ditch with the only access road having an abandoned border post.

    The other is between Lille and Mouscron (Belgium) where I could see no evidence of there ever being a full border post (although looking on Google Maps reviews a “Rue de la Douane”).

    It would probably be quite possible to cross borders even if Schengen were abandoned.

  27. From the DT – “Jeremy Corbyn has said that he would authorise the use of lethal force against terrorists in a Paris-style attack, marking a dramatic reversal of his earlier opposition to David Cameron’s shoot-to-kill policy. ”

    This shows the problem Corbyn is up against.

    Firstly, a PM has no business authorising lethal force (or any other kind of force) in a Paris-style attack – that’s an operational matter for the police, and politicians don’t run the police force.

    Secondly, as above, Cameron doesn’t have a shoot to kill policy, nor do the police. If they do shoot and kill, they have to demonstrate clearly that it is reasonable to do so, or face a murder charge (@Neil A can probably help out with the legals here). No such shoot to kill policy exists. ‘Reasonable cause’ probably pops up there somewhere.

    These two points combine to show that Corbyn walked into a trap, completely needlessly. He shouldn’t have answered the question, but deflected it by saying these are operational matters and lethal force has to be justified under normal British law.

    I have a right to kill someone if my or Mrs A’s life is under imminent threat, although I would have to justify my actions. This doesn’t mean I operate a shoot to kill policy.

    Corbyn desperately needs to sharpen up and anticipate the questions, otherwise he is letting down those people who need Labour to be an effective opposition.

  28. Alec

    I have been in France for the last few days, so I have not been listening the usual Westminster nonsense.

    However, I am a little tired being lectured by the politicians who made such a complete cock-up of Iraq and Libya etc talking as though they are the fonts of wisdom.

    I would be okay with a proper military campaign but based on a realistic strategy which includes Putin and Assad and forgets the wishful thinking and arse-covering that passes for policy right now.

  29. @Alec.

    In fact, the expression “Shoot to Kill” is pretty meaningless.

    Police officers shoot to stop. In practice that usually means aiming for the centre of the body, to maximise the chances that the shots will stop whatever activity the officer believes the suspect was engaging in, or about to engage in. Shooting people in the centre of the body is very likely to kill them. Hence almost all shots taken by firearms officers are “shoot to kill”.

    So the question isn’t really whether you authorise police to shoot to kill, but whether you authorise them to shoot at all. As you correctly point out, this is a decision for police commanders and practically speaking it is a decision for the officer with his finger on the trigger.

    The only “true” shoot to kill issue is Operation Kratos, which is the Met policy of actually executing suspects who are suspected of wearing an explosive belt. This is what happens to de Menenez. Under this policy, surveillance officers will approach a suspect covertly and shoot them in the head from point blank range, which is felt to be the only way to take them out of action without there being a chance of them activating their device with their dying breath (i.e. if you destroy their brain instantly they can’t press a button or pull a cord).

    It may be that Corbyn and Cameron are talking about Operation Kratos when they mention “shoot to kill”. Corbyn could certainly have avoided the problem (I was going to say “dodged the bullet”) by querying what Cameron was referring to, and pointing out that the powers and procedures already exist and that it is not for politicians to operate them.

  30. @Hawthorn,

    I think Syria is more complicated than “right side, wrong side”. The threat of air strikes on the regime was about the use of chemical weapons. One might argue that the threat was in the end successful, as it led to the Russians pushing Assad into agreeing to the destruction of chemical weapons stocks. I rather think it was that quick-thinking by the Russians in response to, if I remember accurately, a question and answer given by John Kerry during an interview, that resolved the issue rather than anything the UK parliament did or didn’t do.

    As for which politicians to trust, I agree that those politicians who argued for the Iraq war should show some humility in the light of it going awry. However, I also believe those (like Corbyn) who argued fervently that the presence of western troops was the cause of the problems in post-war Iraq, and that removing them would reduce tensions, were equally if not more ignorant.

    Had there been 100,000 US troops in Iraq last year, IS would be a Syria-only problem.

  31. Neil A

    There always seemed to me to be an obvious way to design out the problem with a suicide vest in the event of a head-shot, but I won’t mention it here.

  32. Dead man switch, yup. Complicated though.

  33. NeilA

    We (or more accurately the Americans who of course made up the last majority of the military force) were always going to have to leave Iraq at some point. The mistakes had already been made long before then (we all know which ones).

    Just like we would in Syria if we went in without allowing the Syrian state to remain intact which sadly means helping Assad.

    And in case any fool has any doubts, I believe that ISIS hold moral responsibility for Paris.

  34. ICM/Guardian:

    CON 39 (+1)
    LAB 33 (-1)
    LIB 7 (=)
    UKIP 12 (+1)
    GRN 3 (=)
    SNP 5 (=)

    Dates 13th-15th Nov


  35. And another..


    CON 37 (+1)
    LAB 30 (=)
    LIB 6 (-1)
    UKIP 16 (+1)
    GRN 3 (=)
    SNP 5 (=)

    16th-17th Nov


    NCP said the Survation polling includes Northern Ireland

  36. Hawthorn,

    Yes the Americans were always going to leave. But doing so whilst a civil war raged a few miles away was probably a bad idea.

    The Americans started badly, but actually got quite proficient at building relationships and stabilising Iraq. They left before the job was finished.

  37. Polls don’t show much. Both sides probably content. Tories to be ahead, Labour to not be suffering a “Corbyn effect”.

    No obvious effect from Paris.

  38. And no discernable effect from tax credits either. Of course, these all may have had some impact, but contrary effects have cancelled out.

  39. Again, I’m with @Neil A. The idea that the West ’caused’ the terror atrocities by going into Iraq is nonsense, as this was in itself a response to 9/11, with other attacks in Nairobi and elsewhere pre dating that.

    The question is whether that was the right response and whether it was handled well, but even here, the issues are far beyond the specifics of that particular bit of history. The questions are, however, relevant, in that some now wish to engage militarily in Syria/Iraq, with the presumed assumption that this will stop future terror attacks.

    I think the western political system has a real problem in working out how to respond. We’re deep into ‘something must be done’ territory here, and faced with overwhelming military technical superiority allied to a squeamishness to send in our own troops, it seems we always end up at the default setting of bombs and drone attacks against physical targets but no troops on the ground. It doesn’t appear to be working, and when we did send in the troops, it was so badly managed it made matters worse.

    I was struck by the announcement post Paris of 2,000 more recruits for GCHQ, MI6 and MI6. In my view, that’s excellent news, but why now? Since Mumbai in 2008 the security services have been worried about Paris style attack, and the UK has been at the highest state of terror alert for over three months now.

    There is a strong argument to state that our government has been negligent in not taking such steps earlier, but I think this is all part of the difficulties we have in getting our heads around assymetric warfare and how to respond.

  40. The pictures in this morning’s papers of the abandoned & isolated Corbyn on the opposition front bench are actuially a bit sad.

    No doubt his pacifist leanings are at the centre of his reluctance to confront evil with force. But if he continues to wish for a world in which British bobbies can walk into Raqqa & arrest Emwazi then his “leadesrship” -such as it is-will be very severely tested in the coming days.

    On “boots on the ground” -the force which everyone knows will be required to to take territory from IS-the reticence doesn’t result from the battle-but from what follows it. This is the legacy of Bush & Blair. And if Iraq , post conflict, was a chaotic mess, how will IS’ chunk of Syria be any less so in the middle of a Civil War? THat is the problem-how & by whom to hold & govern IS territory-not jow to take it. The latter will not be difficult militarily.

    The Franco Russian Alliance is spearheading the way to an answer perhaps ?

    Danny Finkelstein’s excellent piece in this morning’s Times on the BES data points to Number Cruncher’s equally informative analysis. Which brings me back to Corbyn-His performance in the last few days may appeal to the metropolitan liberal chaterati & the banner waving student, but Up North I think UKIP will look more & more like the party which represents the traditional Old Labour Working Class.


    Cameron should be encouraged by NCP’s analysis-but he has to stop GO ruining it all by going too hard on public spending. If there is head room in the current projections, GO must let timescale take some of the deficit reduction strain-he is in power till 2020.

  41. “Jeremy Corbyn’s close ally Ken Livingstone has been put in joint charge of a review to help decide Labour’s position on Trident.”


  42. Alec

    Did going into Iraq make the situation better or worse? Would you say Western Middle Eastern policy is a success or a failure?

    British government policy in the 1920s and 1930s did not “cause” the rise of Nazism. Have those politicians been unfairly maligned?

    No doubt we will carry on with the same policies in the futile hope of having a different outcome. After all, it is what we do with every other area of policy.

  43. It’s good to see that old tropes don’t die. As with Iraq and Libya, anyone advocating bombings is treated as a serious analyst, staring into the dark heart of the world; whereas anyone suggesting that our track record here should give us pause for thought about whether this will make things better or worse, or at the very least we should have a concrete understanding of the situation and a well thought out strategy for post-war, is a fantasist who’s living in their own world, and is probably a terrorist sympathizer.

    I do have to admire our foreign policy hawks in government and opposition. They’re constantly treated as wise analysts despite having a track record that, if they were doctors, would have seen their license to practice removed and probably staring at a significant stretch of jail time. That’s one hell of an achievement.

  44. Looks like, rather predictably, the Livingstone appointment is causing all sorts of stuff to kick off.

    Shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones (very pro-Trident, has covered brief since 2008) said Ken knew nothing about defence. Ken said Kevan ‘might need some psychiatric help’. It turns out Kevan suffered from depression in the past, and has spoken about it in the Commons. Ken says he didn’t know this but hasn’t retracted his remarks. By the end of the day I would guess that either Ken won’t be heading the defence review or Kevan won’t be on the front bench…

  45. @Anarchists Unite,

    I think we have to be more inquisitive than that.

    There are two aspects to success. The first is having the right policy. The second it implementing that policy effectively.

    In circumstances where a policy has been decided upon, and then implemented badly, it may be too simplistic to conclude the policy itself was wrong.

    The French police decided this morning to storm a flat in St Denis. As it turned out, the occupants turned out to be terrorists, and all of them were successfully killed or captured, with no deaths amongst police or bystanders (save for the poor police dog, Diesel). That was the right policy, implemented successfully.

    If the outcome had been that five police officers were killed, and a terrorist exploded a device killing the occupants of a neighbouring flat, and in the commotion the other terrorists escaped, that wouldn’t necessarily make the policy of storming the flat incorrect. It might mean that the implementation of that policy (how many officers to deploy, what tactics to use, which entrance to use, the timing, the use of covert surveillance etc) was wrong. But the lesson wouldn’t be “Storming flats doesn’t work, in future we need to phone them up and ask them to come out”.

  46. I think Corbyn’s appointment of Livingston is going to be a complete disaster, both in its conception and delivery.

    The DT is reporting that Maria Eagle may resign as she heard about this on Twitter, and that’s even before you get to the point of assessing whether Livingston is the right person for the job.

    Personally, I’m baffled as to why an ex mayor of london has the qualifications to meaningfully assess the nuclear detterent policy at the heart of the UK defence strategy. There are plenty of former generals out there with a mix of vioews on Trident (many are anti renewable) who could have conducted a far more knowledgeble review and given Labour some political cover, as well as open up a genuine debate.

    I am personally rather well disposed to Corbyn in general terms, but he is having a total shocker this week on matters of security and defence, and really seems to be wallowing around in a deep pool of his own making. Terminal, I would say.

  47. @Alec

    Corbyn has made a total mess of this defence issue. He’s spent pretty much his whole career arguing against having a nuclear deterrent. So you would expect that once he got into a position of power he would try and push this through, no? Instead he’s appointed somebody who turns out to like Trident more than anybody knew as Shadow Defence Secretary, and put two strong defenders of Trident on the shadow defence team (Kevan Jones and Toby Perkins). I’ve no idea how a review chaired by two people who have made their (deeply entrenched) positions clear is likely to help sort this impasse in any way, still less one chaired by somebody the ‘moderates’ like less than just about any one who is still in the Labour Party… Supporting unilateral disarmament is electorally unwise, but probably less so than having no defence policy at all, which is the way things are going…

  48. @Alec, I agree with you about everything apart from the “Terminal” bit.

    In politics, it is astonishing how quickly “events” can lead to even the most diabolical week being forgotten. “This too will end” I think. There will be serious damage to the Labour Party, no doubt, but if the agenda in 2019 has moved on to something completely different, and more difficult for the Tories, there’s no reason why Corbyn couldn’t still lead Labour to a decent poll showing at the following election.

  49. @Neil A

    Sure, but then that’s basically what I’m saying. I’m not opposed to intervention, but they are costly (in many ways), they take a lot of time and commitment, have a lot of nuances behind them, so it pays to be cautious, to think things through, and learn from past errors. I’ve not seen any effort to do this from the hawks in government or opposition, yet they’re continually fetted as people who know what they’re doing and have the right answer.

    To use your analogy: if the storming of the flats is unsuccessful the lesson to learn would not be “storming flats doesn’t work so in future we need to mortar bomb them from the outside”.

  50. @Neil A – I suspect that this is terminal for Corbyn. The PLP must be despairing of his inability to lead effectively. That was what I was thinking of.

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