There are two new polls on the EU referendum out tonight – YouGov for the Times and ComRes for the Mail. YouGov have topline figures of REMAIN 37%, LEAVE 38%, DK/WNV 25%; ComRes have topline figures of REMAIN 51%, LEAVE 39%, DK 10%. ComRes was asked Friday to Monday (so started before Cameron’s deal was finalised), YouGov’s poll was asked between Sunday and Tuesday, so was after Cameron’s renegotiation, but straddled Boris Johnson’s endorsement of the Leave campaign.
As we’ve come to expect there’s a sharp difference between the online YouGov poll and the telephone ComRes poll. Online polls on the referendum have tended to show a neck-and-neck race, telephone ones have tended to show a lead for Remain. The level of support for leaving is actually pretty much the same regardless of mode – the difference all seems to be in the proportion who say stay and the proportion who say don’t know (I speculated about that a little last month, here)
Anyway, while the different modes produce different shares, just as interesting is the direction of travel. YouGov’s previous poll was conducted just after the draft renegotiation had been published and showed a significant shift towards leave, giving them a nine point lead. My suspicion then was that it could just be a short-term reflection of the extremely bad press that the deal received in the papers, and that does appear to be the case – the race has tightened right back up again. A fortnight ago YouGov found 22% thought the draft renegotiation was a good deal, 46% a bad deal. That’s now closed to 26% good, and 35% bad. After a blip from the initial bad publicity over the draft deal, the effect according to YouGov seems broadly neutral.
ComRes’s last poll found a similar trend to YouGov – it was conducted after the draft deal had been published, and found a sharp shift towards Leave, with the remain lead dropping by ten points, from eighteen to eight. Today’s poll finds that negative reaction to the draft deal fading a bit now the final deal is done, with the remain lead creeping back up to twelve points. The net effect is still negative, but not by nearly as much as the early polls suggested. ComRes’s specific question on the renegotiation provides a more positive verdict than YouGov’s – among the three-quarters of the sample asked after the deal was struck 46% say it was a success, 39% a failure.
Note that this poll also represents the first outing for some methodology changes from YouGov. Most significantly, they’ve started sampling and weighting by the attention respondents say they pay to politics, have added educational qualifications as a sampling/weighting variable and have shifted up the top age bracket from 60 and over to 65 and over. Also, at the risk of getting very technical, past vote and grouped region are now interlocked (to explain – in the past YouGov weighted everyone’s past vote to match the overall shares of the vote in Great Britain, now they are weighting respondents in London’s past vote to match the shares of the vote in London, respondents in the Midlands’ past vote to match the shares in the Midlands and so on). There isn’t actually much impact on today’s results; the old sampling and weighting would also have shown the race tightening to neck-and-neck. The main difference is that a lot of questions have a higher number of don’t knows, reflecting the higher proportion of respondents who don’t follow politics closely.