A quick update on EU referendum polling. The regular weekly ICM poll today has topline figures of REMAIN 42%, LEAVE 41%. This is closer than ICM have been showing of late – typically they’ve had REMAIN with a lead of around six points – but as ever, it’s nothing that could not be explained by normal sample variation. Wait to see if their poll next week backs it up (tabs are here).

The second poll is by Survation for the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (i.e. UKIP’s group in the European Parliament). While this is newly released, the fieldwork was actually conducted a fortnight ago (30th Nov – 3rd Dec). Topline figures there are REMAIN 40%, LEAVE 42%. After their previous poll showed Remain ahead, Survation are back to showing Leave in the lead. (Full tabs are here).

68 Responses to “Referendum polling update”

1 2
  1. Have these polls been conducted using “new improved” post GE methodology?

    Are we seeing a change in opinion or just a change in methodology?

  2. Anthony: Thank you very much on this wet evening in Bournemouth East.

    When we teach about the use of Referendum, we get the students to understand, we hope, that Governments win them when Governments are popular.

    By mid 2016-2017 the PM will be less popular, and these votes may reflect that, rather than just the EU Remain or Leave choice.

    Testing times ahead.

  3. Good evening all from a mild dry and quite pleasant Wokingham.

    The survation poll shows 5 out of the 8 regions in favour of leaving the EU. Only Scotland, London and NI would vote to remain with London being the most pro EU.

    It’s quite interesting, it looks like London is actually depressing the overall no vote because of its large population and London (if the polls stay this close) could actually determine the over all vote.

    With its large immigrant population we could be seeing headlines from the likes of the Sun “It was the immigrants wot lost it” if the Yes side win.


    Good evening…I think your horrible weather is heading my way.

    “When we teach about the use of Referendum, we get the students to understand, we hope, that Governments win them when Governments are popular.

    By mid 2016-2017 the PM will be less popular, and these votes may reflect that, rather than just the EU Remain or Leave choice.”

    Not quite sure I share your hypothesis, The SNP were and still are extremely popular yet they lost the Scottish referendum.

  5. Chris Lane

    I agree with Allan Christie that the IndyRef seems to be a counter example to your hypothesis

    On which British referenda is this hypothesis based? I was entertaining the notion voters might, in a referendum (a rare event at national level in GB) vote on the issue, rather for or against the government of the day. It’s worth noting that for the two examples I can think of (my British history is decidedly sketchy pre-1906) party allegiance was a rather poor predictor of referendum voting behaviour.

    Flight to safety suggests the DKs will break overwhelmingly for the status quo, but I wonder if that’s also true of younger voters? Do we have data from the IndyRef which speaks to this?

    Of course we won’t have a similar cohort in the EU poll, and the dynamic will be rather different anyway as the youngsters are currently the group most strongly in favour of remaining.

    I think the problem for Leave is that at present there’s a ceiling on their potential support, which won’t be breached unless they are able to offer a positive vision of a future outside Europe. They haven’t done that and show no signs of doing so. They haven’t painted a vivid picture of GB outside Europe that gives people something to look forward to, or be proud of. Nor have Remain, but I don’t think they have to.

  6. Hello to ALLAN and SORBUS
    Callaghan lost his Devolution Referendum campaigns, which Kinnock the younger helped to disrupt.

    Blair won the Northern Ireland campaign, which I think he would have lost, in the Unionist ‘community’ if her had held it later. They only just voted for the Agreement, while the Nationalists and Republicans voted for it in very large numbers.

  7. ChrisLane1945

    It’s always a problem trying to generalise historical events into a “rule”

    For example, in 1979 Scotland, the Yes side “won” the referendum – just by not enough to overcome the 40% rule. While Callaghan’s government was clearly unpopular in England, in the GE Scotland elected 44/71 of the MPs with 41.5% of the vote.

  8. @Chris Lane
    “When we teach about the use of Referendum, we get the students to understand, we hope, that Governments win them when Governments are popular.”

    It’s certainly true that unpopular Governments rarely win referendums. In this case, however, the EU Referendum is an issue that splits both main GB-wide parties and their supporters. I even suspect members of the Cabinet will be allowed to campaign for both sides.


    “Not quite sure I share your [@Chris Lane’s] hypothesis, The SNP were and still are extremely popular yet they lost the Scottish referendum.”

    They weren’t popular enough (just not) to overcome all opposition. They started from too low a base. It could be argued that they weren’t popular enough at the start of the campaign to carry the day.

  9. RAF

    “It could be argued that they weren’t popular enough at the start of the campaign to carry the day.”

    Indeed but, as many of us (including yourself) have suggested, there are many examples whereby the students taught by Chris Lane and his colleagues appear to being deliberately misled by their teachers in advance of a referendum in which some of them will be able to vote.

    In the interests of democracy, we need to be assured that such propaganda is merely idiosyncratic, and not a general pattern displayed by Bournemouth supporters, over-enthused by their team’s ability to dominate the universe,

    (And, yes, I am slightly exaggerating the point. :-) )

  10. The Remain side are clearly favourites to win, and I expect them to do so, but the significance of these polls is that they confirm that the Leave campaign are really in with a genuine chance. This is game on.

    Rather like the Scottish Indy Referendum, its likely to come down to the last couple of weeks and some pretty desperate campaigning. It could get nasty, and it could herald some seismic shifts in our politics.

    Interesting times

  11. Millie

    A significant aspect of EUref will be turnout.

    Will voters (other than the passionate on both sides) see the decision as very important? That seemed to be the case with the indyref, but will that be the case over EU membership?

    The ICM poll also asked “Generally speaking, how enthusiastic are you about the prospect of the referendum on EU membership happening?” with the following results (10 being “Entirely enthusiastic”) –

    10 – 19%
    9 – 8%
    8 – 14%
    7 – 11%
    6 – 11%
    5 – 11%
    4 – 5%
    3 – 3%
    2 – 2%
    1 – 7%
    DK – 8%

    What does that mean? I haven’t the faintest idea. :-)

  12. I think the ‘leave’ side can muster a good 40% of the vote that will be solid.

    However, most of the undecided voters will swing to the status quo, I suspect. Leaving the EU does carry uncertainties, and like in the Scottish Referendum, uncertain people rarely jump into the dark, but rather cling to a known certainty, even if they don’t particularly like that certainty.

    I’ll go for a remain win by 10-20%.

  13. I’m not so sure it’s possible to rely completely on existing methodologies either corrected or not due to the GE. It’s not as if we had referenda every 4-5 years to help calibrate the poll results. And the swing voters here are not necessarily the same people as those who swing or DK or whatever in a GE poll. Although it seems reasonable to assume that UKIP’s GE VI contains a lot more Leavers than any other party. As for the other parties – hmmm.

    As for Cameron and what effect his support might have for his favoured result – depends on how much people are fed up with him, or are prepared to listen to him, or not. Again not necessarily joined to government popularity.

  14. OldNat

    My impression is that the Leave campaign have the most ardent supporters. Those on the Remain side seem to include many who are complacent, and quite a lot more who are embarrassed by and unhappy with recent events, including the Greek debacle and the migrant crisis.

    There was a commentator on TV saying that Conservative supporters were the key as they were most divided, but my guess is that the two sides within the Tories are pretty entrenched and there won’t be much movement. Less predictable I feel are the Corbynistas. There is going to be a strong reluctance amongst them to support Cameron and big business.

    With politicians aligning along non-party political lines, there is scope for flux, ‘events’ and unpredictability.

  15. Millie

    “With politicians aligning along non-party political lines, there is scope for flux, ‘events’ and unpredictability.”

    I wouldn’t disagree with that analysis. Indeed, it is that very unpredictability that makes those political issues that are actually interesting, “interesting! The conventional stuff, where parties posture on predictable lines, is pretty boring – except to the most partisan folk.

    I can understand why many look to last year’s indyref to give some clues to behaviours in the euroref, but the split of opinion along non-party lines in GB now is much more reminiscent of the 1979 Devolution referendum than 1997 or 2014 ones.

    The very fact that folk in England are being asked their opinion on a potentially important constitutional issue for the first time [1] itself may change behaviours.

    [1] the AV referendum was not seen as being important, and the Common Market referendum was largely about joining a trading bloc with common rules.

  16. At this stage, I am honestly not sure how I’ll vote. I’ve always been a Eurosceptic, but pro-EU. I am genuinely waiting to see what Cameron comes back with.

  17. Will you be doing something similar to the party polling graphs for the EU referendum polls?

  18. It seems to me that there are several factors which make the Indyref an unhelpful guide as to what might happen in the Euroref: for example, I assume it will not be possible (or, better, credible) for 27 leaders of the European nations to rush to the UK a few days before the vote in order to promise huge changes which previously were not on offer, attempting thereby to avoid Brexit. For a start, if the vote looks that close, the big players in Europe may just decide they’ve had enough and, sadly, accept that many in the UK simply don’t get the European thing.

    On the other hand, the possibility of a Tory party which rips itself apart after the vote is certainly there; and ‘sysmic’ changes may occur all round – and here the Indyref may well be a good guide, for the changes that occured in Scotland after the referendum still reverberate, and are not yet complete (see, for example, the previous discussion a few days ago regarding the relative power of Tories and Labour in Scotland).

    I shall, of course, vote to stay in. I would prefer the UK to be part of Schengen. I would probably, if push comes to shove, be happy enough to ditch sterling and adopt the Euro. That puts me in a small minority on this site, but so be it.

  19. The problem for the Tories, and Cameron in particular, is that I think this is starting to look like a no-win scenario. These polls suggest that it will probably be a narrow “Remain” majority in the Referendum but that sort of result is only likely to both embolden and enrage the virulent Euro sceptic wing in the Tory Party. It won’t be over for either them or UKIP, especially if they believe that Cameron has sold the country a pup. Rather like the SNP in Scotland, they won’t going anywhere fast and while Cameron will have got the result he wanted, he will bequeath his successor a party still riven by the EU issue, with many itching to have another go. They won’t take yes for an answer, so to speak.

    The no-win scenario extends to the Referendum going the other way too. If we vote to leave, narrowly, where does that leave Cameron and his party, especially the fervently Europhile wing? They’ll be outraged and will feel increasingly alienated within a party where the Europhobes will be triumphant and in the ascendancy. They will also bewail Cameron’s weakness in allowing the Referendum in the first place and, in their eyes, his pusillanimity in the negotiations.

    The only win-win for Cameron is an overwhelming majority for the “Remain” side, but I just can’t see that occurring, certainly if you look at these polls and likely media campaign to urge us to quit.

    I think Cameron may well have let a very large and unfriendly cat out of the bag and has no idea how to get it back in. It’s going to bite him on the backside some time soon.

  20. I regret that I suspect there will be a narrow “leave” vote.

    The “leave” voters will be more motivated, and I would not be surprised if there was a sampling bias in favour of “remain” in the polls.

    What will swing in it in my opinion are the demographic who prefer Labour to UKIP but who want much reduced immigration.


    As someone who will be voting to leave whatever the result of Cameron’s negotiations, I hope you right. Sadly I suspect you are wrong because as a Nation we are no longer good at venturing into the unknown. Still you cheered me, not that I need cheering.

  22. Another good set of employment figures to keep the Government on track.


    I respect your wish to exit the EU but would be interested in your view of what should be done in the event that the vote is close enough for NI, Scotland and Wales to have voted to stay in whilst England votes for exit.

    If that results in an overall plurality for staying in, would you support England leaving the UK and exiting alone?

    If it results in an overall plurality for exiting, would you support the other 3 home nations disbanding the UK?

  24. @Barbazenzero,

    Given that the most recent poll showed “Leave” slightly ahead in Wales, perhaps you should also add the option of Wales declaring herself independent and leaving the EU in the event of England and the UK generally voting to stay in?

    Personally I’m a unionist and how the UK votes is more relevant to me than how England votes. England is so much larger than the other Home Countries that if she voted to leave but the UK voted to stay, the margin for leave within England would have to be so tiny that it wouldn’t really represent the clearly expressed will of the English.

  25. NEIL A
    England is so much larger than the other Home Countries that if she voted to leave but the UK voted to stay, the margin for leave within England would have to be so tiny that it wouldn’t really represent the clearly expressed will of the English.

    I accept that, but unless the bill includes something like the “votes for the dead” clause which nullified the first Scottish referendum on devolution then a plurality of 1 vote of the 4 nations will “win”, regardless of any nation’s will. I don’t see that occurrence putting an end to UKIP.

    Re Wales, I suspect that if they voted to exit but the other 3 nations voted to stay there would be little appetite in Wales for UDI. OTOH, should England also vote to exit they may be content to leave with England whilst NI re-unites with the RoI and Scotland becomes independent within the EU.

    And please feel free to address me as BZ if you don’t like copy and paste.

  26. @BZ

    Yup, but we’re imagining a situation where the English have voted, say 51/49 in favour of leaving but the UK votes against. How much traction would Europhobic English nationalists get for a campaign to split up the UK based on a tiny, tiny margin. As for putting an end to UKIP, I think they idea that a referendum (on voting reform, Scottish independence, regional devolution, EU membership or anything else) would ever cause True Believers to give up is fanciful. At best it removes the “no one ever consulted us” argument.


    The United Kingdom is the United Kingdom and would and should leave as a whole if there is a vote to leave.

    In answer to your second question, no I wish the UK to stay as it is now and see no democratic reason for them leaving.

  28. NEIL A

    Thanks. I agree with your 13:10 UTC post. As in Scotland, the issue in England would soon become: What triggers the next referendum?

  29. As a recently rejoined member of the Labour party I went in fear and trembling to my first constituency meeting. My expectation was that either there would be nobody there or that those there would be the ‘finger jabbing’ representatives of the kinder politics that have been menacing our MPs.

    In practice none of my expectations were fulfilled. There were over 100 people there. They seemed to be all ages. My ‘small group’ (eight I think) had 2 members who had joined 3 and 5 years previously while everyone else had recently rejoined or was new. And everyone one seemed to me very polite and reasonable. There were no threats. The MP and the MEP were warmly applauded. And generally everyone seemed full of goodwill and energy.

    Is this the case elsewhere (in Liverpool, for example)? Is it the case that a minority of the new entrants are of the bullying kind, Labour versions of the Tory Clark and these give a bad name to the rest? Or have the Corbynistas been built up by the press into a monolithic block of entryists (how do you spell that word) when in reality they are not monolithic at all?


    Thanks for that, which was mostly not unexpected.

    But I was a bit surprised at your “see no democratic reason for them leaving“. Given that the UK was not created democratically but now has some elements of democratic governance, are you suggesting that the UK should renounce the moves towards self-governance enacted since the RoI formally departed the UK?


    Personally I am not in favour of self governance of the parts of the United Kingdom. To me it is “United” and should be ruled as one Kingdom. For example I consider the separate parliaments for Scotland and Wales a total waste of money, a cause of disruption to the kingdom as a whole, and an irrelevance. I appreciate this is probably a minority view but many of my views are, which bothers me not one iota.


    Thanks for the response, but I find it hard to understand your view, given that, with the exception of the departed RoI, the UK’s very existence has never been validated [or not] democratically.


    As I said, I appreciate my view may well be a minority view but it is what it is. Indeed the Scots voted clearly last year to remain in the Union so they seem to agree at least in part.

    I’m not sure there is anything more to say on the matter. For me the Union is the Union.


    Fair enough. You’re entirely entitled to your view, but I strongly suspect that after the EU referendum England will either have to make do with remaining in some sort of UK union as well as the EU or leaving the EU and breaking the UK union.

  35. @ Charles

    Not being a Labour Party member, but having a lot of contacts with the members, my information about Liverpool constituency party is second hand.

    Liverpool has pretty much rightist MPs – safe seats given to them. The membership has became more lefty since the summer (but it started much earlier – probably in 2011) – and a number of MT members have been readmitted (expelled in 1991) Also ex Green and CP members. However, there are also many moderates (as they are called today) – so while the membership is still dominated by public employees, there are new self-employed, entrepreneurial members.

    There hasn’t been finger pointing or angry arguments, but partly because very sensitive questions (such as Syria) have been avoided or treated as a matter of the day. There is a massive support for Corbyn, and there are very vocal activists for him, but they concentrate on UK and local issues.

    This is all second hand (warning). What is first hand: there is a large overlap of active membership between the Labour Party, some of the civil society organisations and protest groups (so, if you pick a particular theatre performance, you will know who turns up there).

  36. Laszlo

    That last paragraph describes a set of constituencies that would mean Labour would be lucky to get to 30% unless they reach out beyond that to current LD Tory and UKIP members. Just a thought.

  37. TOH

    I may be wrong, of course, but I think the UK never has been ‘one kingdom’ in the way you seem to imply (2.11). For example, the refusal of the English to adopt Scots law (and vice versa) means that the united parliament has always had to deal with two law codes. Similarly the education systems north and south of the border are very different historically. The refusal of the Church of England to adopt Presbyterianism (and the refusal of the Church of Scotland to keep bishops) means that the relationship between church and state in England and Scotland is radically different, one from the other.
    Northern Ireland and, to a lesser degree, Wales, are also quite different. So although we live in a United Kingdom, it has never been a unified kingdom. The various parliaments just help clarify that fact in the minds of those who would have it otherwise – people who, on the whole, seem to be predominantly English, and in favour of everyone adopting the English way of doing things. This assumption that everyone else has to be govenerned by what the English decide may lead to the end of this united, but not yet unified, Kingdom.

  38. @ Rob Sheffield

    You could be right, but just two observations. 1) I don’t really care what Labour’s vote share is (even if I care about how low I wish the blue corner would get). 2) Labour in Liverpool had what between 75-82% and while it is not replicable elsewhere, and can blind one’s political eyes, still it goes against your argument (but let’s leave the epistemological problem of argument from vacuum out of this).

    I really don’t get the point of (re)transforming the Labour Party to some People’s Party when the Conservatives are that although they may explode themselves (as people’s party do sometimes).

    As I said, living in Liverpool can blind one in awareness of the rest of the country. Yet, Oldham is there as an example (would have been nice to have some polling data) and I think polling companies should take their hands of the taps, because they overtightened them.

  39. JOHN B

    I am aware of all the history that you mention and in that sense you are quite correct, However it remains my view that we were at our best as a nation when we just had one parliament. Just a personal view, based my reading of history, but then I think that the British Empire was a magnificent achievement for all its faults, a view I suspect not shared by many on here.


    Even if it meant breaking up the Union, I would still vote to leave the EU but as I have said many times I don’t think the referendum will go that way. However I do believe we will ultimately leave the EU because I think it will fall apart, probably not in my lifetime but certainly within the next 50 years. I also suspect the breakup will be bloody.

    If we exit in this way with the breakup of the EU I see no reason why the UK itself would fall apart, the reverse in fact.

  41. A poll reported in the Independent indicating that the public would prefer a more representative voting system:


    I do think that this country is now struggling to be taken seriously when it advocates ‘democracy’. And I suspect that the average citizen is becoming increasingly disenchanted with our system.


    We’ll have to agree to disagree on the likely results post referendum until both the “deal” on offer and date are fixed. Polling then may tell us more.

    I sincerely hope there is not a “bloody” break-up of the EU since I can only imagine that being likely in the event of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts expanding throughout the Islamic world while the West continues to make bad decisions on how to react.

  43. TOH – 4.32

    The Empire may have been ‘a magnificent achievement’ – indeed, the same might be said of all empires – but, as Tennyson wrote:
    “Our little systems have their day
    They have their day and cease to be”

    The question is always “What next?”

  44. MILLIE

    The poll you link to may have something to do with the following, reported by the BBC:
    MP’s electoral reform bid defeated Posted at 15:28
    The Commons has voted down a bill proposed by Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds to introduce proportional representation as a way of electing some MPs.

    Arguing for the change, he told MPs the current system was no longer “fit for purpose” and “threatens the constitutional cohesion of the UK” because it doesn’t represent the people.

    He said there had been three general elections where the party with the most votes didn’t win, adding that four million people voted UKIP in May but only one MP was elected.

    Speaking against the proposal, Labour MP John Spellar said he found it “rather astonishing” that in a month where the far-right National Front had made electoral gains in France that someone would argue for the introduction of PR. And he said the 2011 alternative vote referendum showed the public didn’t want to change the electoral system.

    A vote was called, and the bill was rejected by 164 votes to 27, majority 137, meaning it will not progress further.
    See http://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-politics-35090927

    Perhaps ironic that Lab seem to be divided on the issue, and a pity that the SNP don’t seem to have supported it. Does anyone know why?

  45. JOHN B

    In reply to you question “What next”? I would say usually, as in our case, a period of decline. In my view made worse by being in the EU IMO. I would be much happier with closer ties to the USA and the old Commonwealth countries


    I think the inequalities within the EU will cause break up.

  46. Delighted to see the electoral reform bill was defeated. Personally I am very happy with FPTP.

    I think the inequalities within the EU will cause break up.

    I agree that is a problem. England’s departure would likely lessen the risk given that the main UK demand seems to be to increase them.

  48. Small mention in the Mail today of a ComRes poll with CON 37 LAB 33. I haven’t seen mention of it anywhere else (it was tucked in a low down paragraph of the article).

    Is this a mistake? Or a poll they haven’t published fully? It seems a bit odd, unless I’ve missed something.

    ComRes had CON far more ahead last time.

  49. @Millie

    Looking at that report, the polling doesn’t seem to differ substantially from other questions that have been posed about electoral reform. If you ask “Should the number of parliamentary seats broadly reflect the percentage of votes cast in the election?” people respond broadly in favour, and have done for a long time.

    The problem is that polling indicates people also think that the electoral system should a) retain the constituency link between MPs and voters and b) produce strong, single-party majority governments most of the time. There is no electoral system that ticks all of these boxes.

  50. @Anthony (and others), did you see the Ipsos poll for reduced voting age?

    On ‘reducing the voting age from 18 to 16’:
    Support 37%
    Oppose 56%

    On ‘giving 16-17 year olds the right to vote’
    Support 52%
    Oppose 41%

    Love it.

1 2