While the gap between online and telephone polls on the EU referendum has narrowed of late, it is still there, and Populus have put out an interesting paper looking at possible explanations and written by James Kanagasooriam of Populus and Matt Singh of Number Cruncher Politics. The full paper is here.

Matt and James essentially suggest three broad reasons. The first thing is don’t knows. Most telephone polls don’t prompt people with the option of saying don’t know, but respondents are free to volunteer it. In contrast in online polls people can only pick from the options that are presented on the screen, so don’t know has to be presented up front as an option (Personally, I have a suspicion that there’s a mode effect as well as a prompting effect on don’t knows. When there is a human interviewer people may feel a certain social pressure to give an answer – saying don’t know feels somehow unhelpful).

Populus tested this in two parallel surveys, one online, one phone, both split. The phone survey was split between prompting people just with the options of Remain or Leave, or explicitly including don’t know as an option in the prompt. The online survey had a split offering don’t know as an option, and a split with the don’t know option hidden away in smaller font at the bottom of the page (a neat idea to try and simulate not explicitly prompting for an option in an online survey).

  • The phone test had a Remain lead of 11 points without a don’t know option (the way phone polls normally ask), but with an explicit don’t know it would have shown only a 3 point Remain lead. Prompting for don’t knows made a difference of eight points in the lead.
  • The online survey had a Leave lead of six points with a don’t know prompt (the way they normally ask), but with the don’t know option hidden down the page it had only a one point Leave lead. Making the don’t know prompt less prominent made a difference of six points in the lead.

The impact here is actually quite chunky, accounting for a fair amount of the difference. Comparing recent phone and online polls the gap is about seven or so points, so if you looked just at the phone experiment here the difference in don’t knows could in theory account for the whole lot! I don’t think that is the case though: things are rarely so simple, earlier this year there was a much bigger gap and I suspect there are probably also some issues to do with sampling make up and interviewer effect in the actual answers. In the Populus paper they assume it makes up about a third of a gap of fifteen points between phone and online, obviously that total gap is smaller now.

The second thing Populus looked at was attitudinal differences between online and phone samples. The examples looked at here are attitudes towards gender equality, racial equality and national identity. Essentially, people give answers that are more socially liberal in telephone polls than they did in online polls. This is not a new finding – plenty of papers in the past have found these sort of differences between telephone and online polling, but because attitudinal questions are not directly tested in general elections these are never compared against reality and it is impossible to be certain which are “right”. Neither can we really be confident how much of the difference is down to different types of people being reached by the two approaches, and interviewer effects (are people more comfortable admitting views that may be seen as racist or sexist to a computer screen than to a human interviewer?). It’s probably a mixture of both. What’s important is that how socially liberal people were on these scales correlated with how pro-or-anti EU they were, so to whatever extent there is a difference in sample make-up rather than interviewer effect, it explains another couple of points difference between EU referendum voting intention in telephone and online polls. The questions that Populus asked had also been used in the face-to-face BES survey: the answers there were in the middle – more socially liberal than online polls, less socially liberal that phone polls. Of course, if there are interviewer effects at play here, face-to-face polling also has a human interviewer.

Populus think these two factors explain most of the difference, but are left with a gap of about 3 points that they can’t readily explain. They float the idea that this could be because online samples have more partisan people who vote down the line (so, for example, online samples have fewer of those odd “UKIP for Remain” voters), when in reality people are more often rather contradictory and random. It’s a interesting possibility, and chimes with my own views about polls containing people who are too politically aware, too partisan. The impact of YouGov adopting sampling and weighting by attention paid to politics last month was mostly to increase don’t knows on questions, but when we were doing testing it before rollout it did increase the position of remain relative to leave on the EU question, normally by two or three points, so that would chime with Populus’s theory.

According to Populus, therefore, the gap comes down partially to don’t know, partially towards the different attitudinal make-up and a final chunk because they think online samples are more partisan. Their estimate is that the reality will be somewhere inbetween the results being shown by online and telephone, a little closer towards telephone. We shall see.

(A footnote for the just the really geeky among you who have paid close attention to the BPC inquiry and the BES team’s posts on the polling error, but is probably too technical for most readers. When comparing the questions on race and gender Populus also broke down the answers in the BES face-to-face survey by how many contacts it took to interview them. This is something the BES team and the BPC inquiry team also did when investigating the polling error last May. The inquiries looking at the election polls found that if you took just those people the BES managed to interview on their first or second go the make up of the sample was similar to that from phone polls, and was too Labour, but people who were trickier to reach were more Conservative. Hence they took “easy for face-to-face interviewers to reach” as a sort of proxy for “people likely to be included in a poll”. In this study Populus did the same for the social liberal questions and it didn’t work the same way: phone polls were much more liberal than the BES f2f poll, but the easy to reach people in the BES f2f poll were the most conservative and the hard to reach the most liberal, so “easy to reach f2f” didn’t resemble the telephone sample at all. Populus theorise that this is a mobile sampling issue, but I think it raises some deeper questions about the assumptions we’ve made about what difficulty of contacting in the BES f2f sample can teach us about other samples. I’ve never seen any logical justification as to why people who it takes multiple attempts to reach face-to-face will necessarily be the same group that it’s hard to reach online – they could easily be two completely different groups. Perhaps “takes multiple tries to reach face-to-face” is not a suitable proxy for the sort of people phone polls can’t reach either…)

69 Responses to “Populus and Matt Singh on the EU polls”

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  1. Morning folks, I was actually going to mention Matt Singh’s work on the previous thread, then logged in and saw that AW beat me to it!

    It’s a interesting theory about the online polls containing more partisans, which ties in a bit to what was said after the election about the polls generally sampling people who were too political (in the sense of being more so than the average person).

    It’s a little strange observing the EUref from abroad, a lot of fear and misinfomation, but not a lot of discussion about what will actually happen in the event of a Remain or Exit vote. Even though it’s a completely different type of contest, there’s a bit of similarity to the Republican primaries in the US, in that actual policy seems less important than the perceptions of policies. On almost all news articles I’ve read in the last couple of weeks, regardless of the actual theme, there have been comments from the Remain camp and the Brexit camp on “why staying in the EU is vital” or “this is why we have to leave the EU”. Perhaps a more realistic (though I suppose for the point of media sales rather dull) view is that many of the things that are happening at the moment (for example the closure of the Tata steelworks), would occur regardless of what happens in June.

    I think it was mentioned before in a previous thread, but during Andrew Tyrie’s grilling of Boris last week, Boris mentioned (please correct me if I’ve misquoted the Boris) that councils had a “Stockholm syndrome” with regard to EU legislation. For me, that’s a key issue in a lot of the discussion – between Westminster, the various parliaments and assemblies, and local councils, UK politicians, in my mind at least, hugely overlegislate. A lot of the nickpicky bureaucratic stuff that drives people crazy, and which is easy to blame on the European Commision, emerges rather from overzealous civil servants and politicians who feel that “something ought to be done”. Loook at the hoohah over academies – is it really worth wasting a load of political capital (and possibly a fair bit of public money) on something that I don’t even think Michael Gove was that bothered by?Don’t worry, the same sort of thing happens in other places too – but is there any real likelihood of that style of governance changing soon, regardless of the result of the referendum?

  2. Voting is more akin to online activity than telephoning. In the privacy of the polling booth, one doesn’t have to pretend.

  3. @ToH

    “Don’t worry, sadly I think you will get your way and people like me will have to wait for the inevitable break-up of the EU.”


    Unless… The study Finkelstein cited is correct and the trend is toward ever more Integration (until we wind up joining a galactic federation etc….)

  4. Whereupon this would become the Galactic polling report.

    (We’d still likely need the Saltire for some threads thougth…)

  5. “The second thing Populus looked at was attitundinal differences between online and phone samples.”

    Anthony, you have at least two of those ‘attitundinal’s in your piece. Spelling checker needs altering. Hope that helps..

  6. @jonboy

    In the polling booth there is no “don’t know” option

  7. Good afternoon all from central London.

    It’s a complicated ole business this polling malarkey especially when you have so many don’t knows.

    Why don’t the polling companies poll the same don’t knows a week after the initial polls to see if there has been any movement among them and publish that as a separate poll?

    “James Kanagasooriam” Is he related to Skippy? ;-)

  8. Alun009. Excellent postin Previous thread. LEAVE hasn’t even set out what it will try and get in our new Treaty with the EU ( yes Treaty – again. That’s is what they will insist on.) and whatever we think we will ask for we will get less.

    The best thing we get from the EU is the right to non discrimination on the basis of nationality. If we are out our individual and commercial rights will be less. And if we are out of the loop we probably won’t even notice that we are being discriminated against as it will be done in 101 subtle ways which are currently dealt with in legislation that LEAVE considers to be “red tape”.

    So LEAVE should try and explain. Eg Will we still have EHIC cards to give refunds against hospital bills when we are living, working or travelling in the EU after leaving.

    Once that’s all explained people will know what they are voting for. Otherwise I am thinking /hoping they will find it tough going. BTW will there be a LEAVE manifesto like for Scotland?

  9. Last time I looked online bets for Remain were slightly ahead of bets for Leave.

    “BTW will there be a LEAVE manifesto like for Scotland?”

    I suspect that this depends first on which campaign receives the status of official “Leave” designation. It will certainly be interesting if there is one, as I imagine there will be others on the “losing” Leave side who would take issue with its contents. There is a very different character to Vote Leave and Leave.EU, and they have a different emphasis on reasons for leaving.

    The Remain side will be able to make a certain amount of mischief by getting people from the “losing” Leave side to defend or disavow aspects of such a manifesto. If Vote Leave wins the nomination, its conservative character will be difficult for some Leave.EU people to defend. If Leave.EU wins, the people who like to downplay immigration as a factor will be made to squirm at the prospect of defending the sort of comments Farage & co like to make about Lithuanians.

    The result will probably be that some prominent Leavers will either take a back seat, or be forced contradict things they dont agree with, or, most likely, to dissemble when faced with questions about it. In short, there are loads of places the Remain camp will be able to drive wedges in.

    I wonder, from a polling point of view, whether the disunity that is so often cited as being harmful to political parties in elections will be more or less harmful to referendum campaigns. My instinct is that it’s damaging, and can be exploited ruthlessly, but I’ll watch to see how it pans out.

  11. What is the likelihood of some “Don’t Knows” being so conflicted that they do not vote at all? Apportioning “Don’t Knows” based on inclination without asking if they regularly or only intermittently vote is problematic.

    I would also say the same is true for “remain” and “leave”, that strength of conviction to do either when combined with past voting habits is a better predictor of whether they are likely to vote.

    That is why, while I will vote “remain”, my money is on “leave”.winning.

    Arguing for against the proposition here is not the issue, whereas figuring out who is likely to vote on either side is of interest.

  12. @Wolf
    “Last time I looked online bets for Remain were slightly ahead of bets for Leave”

    In that case I presume telephone betting for remain is WAY ahead of leave :)

  13. ‘In the polling booth there is no “don’t know” option’

    In my youth I sometimes used to scribble “You’re all useless” or something even less flattering on my ballot paper. So there’s always that option. Of course you have to be a committed “Don’t Know” to do that!

  14. PETE B:
    “You’re all useless”

    To me, that reads the same as “I am insufficiently able to distinguish between you”. Well, that might be as much a function of the voter as the candidates.
    I would always vote, because I feel myself well enough informed to distinguish the useless from the evil, even if that’s all that’s on offer.

  15. In the Times today, on the EU thingy…

    Finklestein says it’s pointless waiting for people to spell out what’s involved in leaving the EU, as it’s too complicated, too much is uncertain until you know the outcome of negotiations on trade and other deals, which are not precisely determinable in advance, and anyway commentators tend to be biased.

    Not sure I agree people are inevitably biased and even if they are you might still take that into account. But let’s face it, it can be hard to know the outcomes in advance, look at the Scot ref and oil prices. Also, how many Indy peeps were factoring a banking crash into their arguments pre-Crunch?

    Meanwhile in another article, that reminded me of Neil A’s observation a while back, that Scots could be persuaded to vote a particular way in the ref. if it meant being a few hundred better off… rhe headline: “Brexit vote decided by £25 a year”. This apparently is how much would persuade people to vote to leave, according to a Yougov poll of 15k.

  16. ‘Finklestein says it’s pointless waiting for people to spell out what’s involved in leaving the EU, as it’s too complicated, too much is uncertain until you know the outcome of negotiations on trade and other deals, which are not precisely determinable in advance,…’

    So no-one from the exit side is going to offer any thoughts on what status my Italian wife will have after a vote to leave the EU? At least the Yes side in Indyref was clear that everyone who wanted to could remain in Scotland, and was very welcome to stay.

    Will anyone who is pro-exit please offer some thoughts on the subject…..

    By the way, AW, many thanks for the ‘footnote’. Excellent.

  17. JOHN B:
    “what status my Italian wife will have”

    I predict you’ll get confident replies that nobody on the Leave side wants to throw anybody out. Balance that against the fact that throwing foreigners out is *precisely* what some people want to do. What is the mechanism that prevents THOSE people being what they want whilst allowing the more mainstream Leavers to get what they want? Nobody can say. There isn’t a process, the plan seems to be to sort out the messy detail later. Which, as I’ve already said on these boards, will be deeply off-putting for a lot of potential voters.

  18. ” In the polling booth there is no “don’t know” option ”

    But there is the “can’t be bothered to walk down to the polling station” option

  19. While I can understand campaigners on either side trying to reframe what is a technical question in terms of issues that they know chime with the general sway of the electorate (immigration, trans-national co-operation, whatever), I am somewhat surprised at commentators on here decrying a lack of a forward “manifesto” for the country.

    The question at hand is not what we should or shouldn’t do as a country, rather it’s a technical question as to how we should do it. Whatever you want the country to look like (Social collective? Free-market utopia? Unfettered anarchy?), we are being asked to decide whether or not it is better to achieve that through the current system of the EU, or outside it (extendeding I suppose to ones prediction of a future EU system too)? However much more engaging issues might be than political methods, the question is not about policies, but the political structures for implementing them.

  20. So. It’s a choice between something which, though not perfect, has functioned fairly well over the last 40 years and some indeterminate alternative that is going to be an inferior version which will be “negotiated” by – we don’t know who yet – with a club we have just left whose members are not any more wanting to bust a gut to keep us happy. Hmm let me think about it one more time….

    It’s a bit like leaving my nice (golf – insert sport of your choice) club for one that hasn’t been built yet and it’s 20 miles away.

  21. @Dieselhead

    This isn’t the place I guess, but may I suggest other people may have a perfectly and sincerely held view entirely different to yours.

    No side of politics has a monopoly on the right answers, and most political views are subjective to an individuals experiences etc.


  22. @Dieselhead

    That’s fine. Whether we keep the current system is a reasonable approach to the referendum question. Whether or not we keep current policies (on Italian wives, immigration, trade, human rights, whatever) is a little wide of the actual issue of political structure. However much more exciting those issues of policy might be to all but the wonkiest of political wonks!

    I would suggest though that a more appropriate golf club analogy is that we are deciding whether or not we want to be a golf club member at all, not which golf club we want to be in.

  23. “It’s a bit like leaving my nice (golf – insert sport of your choice) club for one that hasn’t been built yet and it’s 20 miles away.”


    Or like leaving your allotment…

  24. As we are members of many clubs (NATO, UK, EU etc etc), the analogy is more like someone who is a member of various clubs such as golf, round table, football etc, and gets fed up with the golf club imposing all sorts of petty dresscodes etc.

  25. Before I realised how much I hated it, I played golf for a few years (it was a good way of getting out of the house for a few hours with my best mate).
    I was never a member of a club because of the Groucho Marx argument so played on public courses (which had clubs on them as well).
    Trouble was, we had to arrive at 6am to get a slot, wait around until 11.15 to actually play, get treated with complete contempt by members, pay much higher green fees and we had no influence on how the course was run.
    Now there’s an analogy for you.

  26. @Popeye @Carfrew

    It really doesn’t matter how your rephrase the question. As it stands, we are a member of the EU. That’s a real thing. Being independent of the EU is a journey into the unknown. It’s an abstract thing.

    I take the point that Leave becomes less abstract when reduced to a simple matter of high principle. However, this is not the type of election (or more significantly – electorate) that is so engaged on the matter that high principle will trump pragmatism.

    If Leave wins it will be because its campaign succeeds in convincing the electorate that they will be better off.

  27. @Guymonde

    Brilliant :). And dare I say, utterly credible.

  28. RAF
    “Being independent of the EU is a journey into the unknown”

    Not for anyone over about 60 it isn’t. And which generation will turn out to vote in greatest numbers? Could it be the over 60s?

  29. @Pete B
    “Being independent of the EU is a journey into the unknown”
    “Not for anyone over about 60 it isn’t. And which generation will turn out to vote in greatest numbers? Could it be the over 60s?”
    Even for the over 60s, as you can’t turn the clock back 40 years.

  30. RAF
    No-one’s talking about turning back the clock. It’s just that older people have confidence that the UK is perfectly capable of thriving as a sovereign nation.

  31. Pete B @ RAF

    “No-one’s talking about turning back the clock. It’s just that older people have confidence that the UK is perfectly capable of thriving as a sovereign nation.”

    While in Scotland, it’s the younger people who have confidence that Scotland is perfectly capable of thriving as a sovereign nation – especially if it shares aspects of that sovereignty with its European partners.

    Real people seldom fall into neat generalities.

  32. @RAF

    I think that it would be fair to say that the future in any event is unknown and that we are choosing between two unknowns!

    But yes, in terms of a political structure, we have been in the EU for a while and if one was reticent to change political structures, that might be a valid reason to vote one way in the referendum.

    I think it’s fair to say that most of the debate by campaigners on all sides has focussed on policies, or future visions for the country, rather than on whether those visions are best achieved within the EU structure or without. It is very understandable to see campaigners try to take specific issues which are known to raise passions and co-opt them to one side or other of what is really a somewhat drier question on which political structures are best placed to deal with whatever issues there happen to be.

    I just assumed that, whatever their views on EU membership, the type of people posting on this sort of website would be of the political geeky ilk and appreciate the technical question of political systems rather than also demand it necessarily be reframed in terms of policy issues and manifestos!

  33. @OldNat

    Anecdotally, my experience was that it was the young in England who tended to root for a “Yes” in Scotland too (mainly in the hope of utilising any friendly immigration policy in a newly-independent Scotland!).

  34. “fed up with the golf club imposing all sorts of petty dresscodes etc”

    ..but somehow thinking that on leaving, you’ll still be able to play on the course without having to follow the same rules!

  35. Popeye

    There is some evidence that the aging process also involves some deterioration in the pre-frontal lobes of the brain, which can result in reduced ability to assess risk (a situation well known to the criminals who prey on the elderly).

    “Rewiring” of the pre-frontal lobes in adolescence can also be detrimental to the ability to accurately assess risk (as drug pushers also well know).

    Your “young in England” may have been intelligently assessing the risk of being pulled out of the EU by the geriatrics in the English provinces, and sensibly looking for alternative strategies in such a circumstance.

    Many of my relatives in the USA have sensibly ensured that they and their kids also have EU (via UK) passports as they consider the possibility of the dysfunctional USA simply ceasing to function.

  36. @John B

    I’m not really a Leave supporter. I haven’t decided which way I’m going vote myself yet, so not really in a position to advocate.

    However I expect that all non-British EU citizens currently residing in the UK would be asked to apply for permanent residency, or possibly for a work visa if they’ve not been here very long. The current ten year stay that is required to qualify for permanent residency might be temporarily reduced as a goodwill gesture (perhaps to three years, to pre-empt people rushing to the UK immediately after an “Out” vote to establish their bona fides).

    Assuming that your wife has been here 10 years or more, she can apply for residency anyway (for the princely sum of £1875. She doesn’t currently need to due to the free movement of EU citizens. But the 10 year rule applies for everyone else so would presumably also apply to Italians. Alternatively, as your spouse, she could apply for UK citizenship.

    I suppose that the Leave campaign might say that, although there would be a significant one-off cost to update the status of a couple of million people in one go, it would also provide an opportunity to sift out a hell of a lot of people that we don’t really want here anyway. Visas/residency could be denied to anyone with a criminal record, for example, or if one wanted to be more draconian to anyone who hasn’t been in regular employment since their arrival, or who hasn’t learned some English, etc, etc.

    Probably not an area where the Leave campaign are going to lose votes, I’d expect. There weakness if definitely on the economic security side of things.

  37. Both Leave and Remain referendum campaigns seem to be lacklustre at best. Have they officially started yet?

    Remain just seem to think that all they have to do is to scare people about the Great Unknown. Leave has to satisfy many different if overlapping groups. For instance, those to whom the ability to kick out our rulers is most important, those who don’t like the cost of membership and those who want to reduce immigration.

    I think Leave’s job is harder. Presumably the polls will start to show which is being more successful.

  38. @guymonde.
    Yes even better analogy!! Btw I don’t play golf. But if I did seriously I would want to be a member of a club and not play on the inferior “turn up and play” pitch and putt course.

    Anyway my point was (I hope) not about my particular views but about the choice L and R are presenting to voters. One is more or less known. The other has not even been set out. Say what you like about the Scot Indy manifesto (actually don’t!) but at least there was some basis for deciding how to vote.

  39. @NEIL A
    “an opportunity to sift out a hell of a lot of people that we don’t really want here anyway.”

    But what if “we” don’t agree on whom “we don’t really want here”? There are some people who want to throw out all foreigners. There are some who would generously allow all to stay, as long as they are not Muslims. I wouldn’t agree with either of those two groups. Would a Leave vote lend more legitimacy to their views than mine? Brexiters have been described as people who won’t take yes for an answer. What if a Leave vote is just a milestone on the way to something else? We’re already talking about deporting undesirables. The opacity of the post-Leave world leads me to imagine some pretty horrifying scenarios, and I won’t be alone. This will have an effect on public opinion the closer we get to polling day with a paucity of a post-Brexit vision.

  40. I imagine that nobody will be awfully surprised that I’m backing Remain; as a Lib Dem activist, postgraduate historian, and organiser of various hobby/small business projects that reach out multinationally I’m probably close to the perfect In block.

    Am in agreement with all that both campaigns are really weak. I’m not sure how sure they are about what terrain they’re really playing on either – do we have polling on the firmness of different voting groups to their side? Who those DKs are and who targets them right could be vital, especially as I think from the above evidence they seem to break towards Remain at present in a squeeze question.

    I’m concerned about how the age gap will pan out in the Referendum, especially with IVR leading to potentially weak student turnout. There is something odd in that something we have to deal with for the rest of our lives (optimistically could be another 60 or even 70 years for me) may be heavily decided by high turnout of retirees voting strongly against the average position of younger voters. (Indeed my 93 year old great aunt, who is currently torn between really not being able to stand the Germans and the fanatical loyalty of a slightly parvenu member of the Anglican middle class to a Conservative Prime Minister, actually admitted that she wasn’t sure she should be allowed to vote given it will all mainly affect the young – I don’t know if other people of her generation will think similarly, or whether it will change their votes at all if so.)

  41. I guess I am with James here – I feel campaigns on both sides have been poor so far, with outright fictions and exaggerations on both sides (notably Boris, as picked up in his Commons grilling) and very little clarity and honesty about what might actually happen in the cases of either Leave or Remain.

    However I have three children just old enough to vote – all three are desperate for the UK to stay in the EU. One wants to work abroad and is studying international law to do so, one has a close interest in animal welfare and the third is active in the human rights area. All are adamant that their ability to change the world for the better will be restricted if we leave the EU.

    I’m not sure they are 100% correct – us oldies tend to see shades of grey better than the youngsters – but I will get out there and encourage a remain vote, if only for their sakes. They have to live with this decision for many years after I am gone…

  42. Neil A

    £1875? That’s rather a lot to fork out just to remain in a country which has voted to say it doesn’t like you and all you believe in (free movement of people, opportunity to work whereever you wish to in Europe, etc)!

    And what happens should my wife lose her job? Will she get deported? Would I be deported along with her? Would I be welcome in Italy, should my Italian wife decide to return home? Am I being paranoid?

    More importantly as far as the UK ecomonny is concerned, where will the work force come from to replace all those EU citizens who will no longer have the automatic right to come here? Is the ‘Leave’ campaign somehow going to produce 2 million or so additional UK citizens out of nowhere overnight?

  43. can’t spell ‘economy’. Apologies

  44. I’ve been sulking since GE 2015.

    And also partly waiting to hear what research might say about the opinion polling prior to the GE. The G spot quotes findings from independent industry inquiry led by Prof Patrick Sturgis. In particular, of note, is

    “…in historical terms, the 2015 polls were some of the most inaccurate since election polling first began in the UK in 1945. On average, their final estimates put both the Tories and Labour on 34% – and these figures influenced the parties’ strategies, media coverage and, possibly, voter behaviour.”

    The last bit is for me the most important finding. It calls into question the purpose/motives/effect of polling.

  45. There is a a universal truth about dealing with the future, all prognostication is guesswork, good prognostication relies on good information, in political/economic terms good information is generally limited. However, since the more managerial as opposed to idealogical style of politics has held sway in the UK (since, at the latest, the premiership of John Major), such prognostication has been the bread and butter of electoral discourse. It is unsurprising, therefore, that such an approach should be taken by both campaigns. The lacklustre nature of the campaigns can be put down to this, because there is so little good information on the current political/economic position upon which a prognosis can be based. For example “remain” has the uncertainty of Eastern European as opposed to German attitudes on immigration and more particularly asylum and the difficulties of balancing economies (Greece v Germany) which both use the EURO, “leave” has all the uncertainties that have been pointed out above.
    What would be necessary to ignite the debate would be arguments about the questions of principle that underlie the choice, these are idealogical issues, however most of our current politicians do not know how to address them effectively because of their training in managerial politics.
    What this means, I am very much afraid, is that those who are undecided will have to make their minds up on the basis of false premises. Those false premises are at best limited prognoses based on limited information and at worst unsound conclusions based on a bias toward one outcome, conclusions based on sophistry if you will.
    I despair that a decision that is so fundamental will be controlled by the effectiveness of the rhetoric presenting such conclusions.
    Whichever side wins the country will have to work with the system that is chosen. The problem I foresee is that the vote will be so close as to not resolve the question and leave further uncertainty. I imagine if the arguments were presented in a more idealogical way the result would be less close; of course that is a prognosis based on very little good information and should probably be ignored.

  46. I have to be honest, primarily by dint of lukewarm enthusiasm, and confess that I haven’t deep-dived into the EU referendum polls to find out if differential turnout might be a factor in the eventual result. Accordingly, what I’m about to suggest may already have been disproved by the polling data, if indeed polling data can prove or disprove anything very much these days, but my hunch would be that the Leavers might be more motivated to vote than the Remain side. I have nothing more than intuition and anecdote to go on here, hence my deference to hard data if it exists, but I have been quite surprised by the venom and passion of those who I’ve met who want us to leave the EU; people I wouldn’t normally associate with deeply held political views.

    Now, whether this manifests itself on the day, I don’t know, but I suspect a good proportion of those who are telling the pollsters how they are going to vote won’t actually do so and I guess the key is whether the abstentions break disproportionally one way or the other. If the Remainers really do have a 5-10% lead at the moment, then the differential turnout would have to favour Leave significantly, but there seems to be some signs that the Remain lead is slowly reducing and if things get very tight come June, the passion and determination to vote of the Leavers may just swing it. My sense is that if apathy resides anywhere it lives amongst those who are sort of minded to staying in the EU but don’t have particularly strong views about it. They have a weakish preference to stay in but aren’t persuaded that we’d descend into third world penury if we left. Getting those people to go the polls on voting day may be the key to the outcome. Personally, I think they’re more likely to sit it out than those who can’t wait to get out. Just a hunch, no more. If Leave look likely to win in the late polls then it might persuade them to turn out.

    On the Port Talbot closure/sale issue, one aspect that hasn’t been discussed much in terms of the problems facing the British steel industry is not so much the over supply of cut price steel from China but the overall declining demand for the metal. For example, a lot of cars, utilising the lightweight architecture advantages of aluminium, don’t use steel any longer, certainly not in the quantities they once did. Most JLR products are now made of aluminium and not steel.

    The challenge for the industry, and the Government, is what do you do with a commercial concern based on a commodity that may be becoming slowly but surely obsolete.

  47. @John B

    Hmm, so many things in there. I think you’re jesting a little?

    I don’t think Leave are saying they don’t like any and all EU citizens. I think they’re saying they want the UK to have a choice over which ones it likes. There are quite a number of Brexiteers who are either Europeans themselves (Gisela Stuart etc) or have strong connections to Europe (Farage etc).

    As for your wife losing her job, well if she was a recent arrival, and she wasn’t your wife, and she wasn’t able to get another job, then (like an American or a Canadian or a New Zealander, all of whom we generally quite like) then yes she’d be expected to leave. However, she is your wife and so (like an American or a Canadian or a New Zealander) she would have a clear path to residency and citizenship and wouldn’t be expected to leave. My own brother is a permanent resident of the USA, despite us not being in a political and economic union with that country.

    Yes you’re being paranoid.

    As for the loss of 2m workers, I think that’s a bit silly. The majority of that 2m are currently employed, and there’s no reason to suppose that they wouldn’t successfully be granted leave to remain and/or work visas for the UK. We might indeed get a few extra British citizens, with UK workers returning from abroad, but not that many as I expect their host countries would also be generous with visa arrangements, and many of our people abroad are retired anyway.

    But if (picking numbers out of the air) 1/4m of that 2m were told to leave, because they’d been involved in crime or because their presence was felt not to be in the economic and social interests of the British people, then the impact would be pretty small, except on the housing market and the loss of green space that comes from expanding the housing stock.

  48. No one seems to be concerned about how leaving the EU might affect important everyday stuff like Storage, and allotments…

  49. NEIL A:
    “I expect their host countries would also be generous with visa arrangements”

    I expect “quid pro quo” would be the likeliest rubric. Therefore, expect us to start receiving confused and bewildered Brits back after they’ve been deported, if we start deporting people. Alternatively, exect them to be left to continue living in Spain, if we don’t deport people.

    I understand the impulse for the Leave campaign to pretend that all good things and no bad things will come to pass, but such assertions seem more than little rose-tinted. Your claim that “the impact would be pretty small, except on the housing market” seems to have the flavour of wishful thinking.

  50. According to my IP address I’m in Baghdad today so Good afternoon all from Baghdad.


    ” Being independent of the EU is a journey into the unknown”

    Being a member of the EU is a journey into the unknown. Economies collapsing, migration crises, terrorists hop skip and jumping all over the EU, Eastern European EU members not signing up to various agreements and the horrific prospect that one day the Turks might become a member of the EU…What’s next?

    The EU is nothing more than the political wing of America, keep them all together and they are easier to control, much in the same way NATO is the military wing of America.

    The EU at present is aesthetically pleasing as watching Diane Abbott v Eric Pickles in a mud bath competition.

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