ICM put out their weekly EU online poll today. Topline figures were REMAIN 45%, LEAVE 45%, DON’T KNOW 10% and tabs are here. ICM have tended to produce some of the most leave figures and the neck-and-neck result actually follows on from a series of polls showing a small leave lead, but this is due to a change in methodology.

As is often the case, ICM’s poll is actually less interesting than Martin Boon’s commentary that accompanies it – Martin’s response to the polling errors of last year has been one of the most candid and interesting of the pollsters, if occasionally one of the most pessimistic. In his article today he writes about what he considers to be the bleak future for phone polling given how people use the telephone these days, but also writes about the problems ICM have encountered moving most of their EU referendum polling to online.

Specifically Martin writes about how when ICM set online surveys live on Friday nights they get a rush of fast respondents that are skewed towards Leave. These entirely fill some of the demographic quotas set for the poll, meaning there is no room for the slower responding Remain respondents. To tackle this ICM have made two changes – one is to their sampling (they will spread it across the whole weekend, rather than opening it fully on Friday), the other is to weight respondents by how quickly they respond. According to Martin’s commentary the overall effect of this is to improve Remain’s relative position by four points.

I should point out (as Martin does in his article) that this is very much an issue to do with the way ICM carry out their online polls. Other online companies won’t necessarily do things the same way or face the same issues. I can only speak confidently about YouGov’s systems, but I know YouGov’s don’t invite respondents to specific surveys, they have a system that sends invites to respondents automatically, ensuring a constant flow of respondents into YouGov’s system. This means when people click on their invite (be it immediately, after a few hours, or days later) they are sent into whatever YouGov surveys are open at the time and need someone matching their demographics – hence when YouGov surveys go live they get a mixture of both fast respondents and slower respondents, who may have actually been invited before the survey was even written.

There was also a new contribution to the ongoing mystery of the gap between online and telephone polls on the EU referendum, this time from Prof Pat Sturgis (the Chair of the recent BPC/MRS inquiry into the polling error) and Prof Will Jennings (who served on the inquiry). It can be read in full here, but Pat and Will conclude that “While there are of course many caveats required here, this comparison suggests that the true picture may lie somewhere between the two modes, possibly somewhat closer to online. At the very least it suggests a good deal of caution is needed before concluding that one method is right and the other wrong. That will only be known for sure on June 24.”

439 Responses to “ICM – Remain and Leave level pegging, and dealing with fast respondents”

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  1. @Alec

    “Less dramatically, the EC has again failed to take any action against Germany for running a huge current account deficit.”

    Should that read surplus?

  2. CMJ

    “The plus side is that hopefully they will push it so far, the public kick back and show two fingers to this type of politics.”

    The problem is, however, that the public simply switch off from politics in even greater numbers.

    For the party strategists (and in this referendum the Tories come over as being “the party” :-) ) success for their side will simply confirm to them that their version of Project Fear was simply the most effective, professional one.

  3. Roger Mexico

    Thank you for your reply to my post. I will respond to certain points, as otherwise I will end up writing a book.

    “…Similarly recent history may encourage other EU countries not to see democracy and sovereignty as being that closely related. If you are from Greece, Spain or Portugal you may have lived under a regime which was very keen on the second but not the first.”

    Exactly my point.

    “Those from the ex-Communist countries may similarly have found democracy rather lacking despite much praising of the motherland.”

    Again, the point I was trying to make. I obviously lack communication skills.

    ” The UK government (especially but not just when Conservative) has always fought against power moving from the Council of Ministers, with its representatives of the individual governments, to the Parliament. So it’s a bit rich to then complain about lack of democracy.”

    Not at all. I’m not the UK government. Actually, if the EU Parliament had the ability to make law, as our parliament does, I’d be much more pro-EU, because it would be more democratic.

    “Incidentally when decrying the ‘newness’ of European states, we tend to forget that a sizeable chunk of the UK broke off in armed conflict during the last 100 years.”

    That’s exactly why I was careful to refer to England rather than the UK.

  4. @James E, did you miss the most popular bets chart, 87.4% of bets are for remain. Bookmakers calculate their odds on amounts of money placed not most popular bets, or do you think the rich 12.6% get several more votes than everyone else?

  5. CatmanJeff

    OK I believe you. Honest I do. The rhetoric from both camps has been childish for much of the time with Cameron and Johnson the worst offenders.

  6. @James
    Polls and bookies have different aims, and different sources for their information.
    Polls seek to find a random sample of the electorate to predict a result (with adjustments when they know their sample is not random, too small etc.
    Bookies have the information from money bet with them, and aim to make a profit by setting the odds to pay out less than they take in, whoever wins. It isn’t actually necessary for them to consider any other predictions.

    Push the situation towards an unrealistic extreme to see how that works.
    Suppose the polls predict IN 50 OUT 50
    Now suppose that only IN voters bet, and they all bet on their own preferred result.
    What odds will the bookies offer? (I guess they stop taking bets)
    Make it a little more realistic by assuming that numerically 90% of bets are placed in equal value by IN and OUT, but that the last 10% of punters ‘invest’ heavily on a particular result (IN for the sake of argument). Then IN will get poor odds, won’t it? while OUT appears to be an unlikely long shot.
    But then some people like to bet on a long shot, hoping to win much, whichever result they would actually prefer to happen, and then the long shot odds shorten, etc.
    That might tend to make the bookies ‘prediction’ closer to the polls, but the bookies’ sample can never be a random sample, for it never includes people who don’t gamble.
    If we actually had the figures of numbers and sizes of all bets placed, how close the odds matched random polling during the run-up to the vote would make an interesting study.
    (Had there been a single very large bet at 5000-1 on Leicester City winning the Premier League, I expect that would have skewed subsequent odds downwards for quite a while)

  7. @Pete B

    “Actually, if the EU Parliament had the ability to make law, as our parliament does, I’d be much more pro-EU, because it would be more democratic.”

    But most EU law is made by European Council (current elected members of member state governments) and the European Parliament (directly elected representatives from the member states).

  8. “Not at all. I’m not the UK government.”

    True, but the point here is that the UK has been instrumental in curbing the power of the democratically elected part of the EU, its parliament. To leave the EU is to take the power the parliament does have, and put it in the hands of the body that has worked against democracy, the UK government. The machinery of the UK state is very far from democratic, with the majority of members unelected, an unelected head of state, the convergence of the state and its official religion, etc. They idea that favouring THAT over the European Parliament is the *democratic* choice doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever.

    And, of course, the irony is that international agreements, including trade deals, make requirements on signatories. Any deal made between the UK and the EU, post-Brexit, will still impose requirements on companies and individuals within the UK. The difference is, on the UK side, the decisions will be made by our government and people it appoints. It might not come before parliament at all. It would appear that we would have voted for giving the PM more power and taking away an important level of scrutiny. Of course, it would still go to the European Parliament, but the members there wouldn’t be looking to see whether it was in the interests of the people of the UK anymore. There would be no UK members. They would be seeking only the maximum for the 27 member states.

    Of course, you might argue that such a deal would inevitably be put to parliament. I don’t think it’s inevitable at all, but let’s say it is. The negotiations would STILL be done by the government and its appointed representatives (so no more democratic that a European Council meeting, where our PM represents us). If it fell before parliament, that would also mean it falls before the Lords. That majority of unelected members would have their say. Does that strike you as more democratic than a proportionally elected European Parliament? I struggle to see how that could possibly be a view someone could seriously hold.

    So given the choice we have, between Remain or Leave, the idea that Leave is somehow more democratic is predicated on a misunderstanding of the tendencies of successive UK governments, the structures that underpin its power, and the post-Brexit framework for agreeing any of these lovely new deals that the Brexit camp delight themselves squabbling over. If you think the House of Commons alone will be instrumental in negotiating them, scrutinising them, AND the House of Lords will be frozen out of the process, you might have an argument. The way I see it, I’m not even sure the Commons will get a say. To Leave the EU is not the path to increased democracy.

  9. @ RAF

    “But most EU law is made by European Council (current elected members of member state governments) and the European Parliament (directly elected representatives from the member states).”

    I know many people will say that this is not really much different from a UK cabinet who have been elected by the people and then chosen by the winning party but it isn’t quite the same as directly electing these people.

    The democratic deficit is not so much that there isn’t some democracy involved but that it could be much more direct and much more meaningful to the voters.

    The only election the people get is one to the body of the EU parliament that says yes or no to the legislation and we don’t get the opportunity to elect some one/some party on a manifesto or even to decide which people on a party slate get our vote.

    It would seem a lot more democratic and energising if the president and legislation proposing assembly were directly elected and could be voted out in 5 years time. That way the key issues in Europe- anything from Austerity, refugees, treatment of Greece, TTIP, health and safety will be properly debated via manifestos and the ballot box.

  10. Alun009

    Agree with your comment above. Brexit would not lead to greater democratic accountability of the UK electorate. The UK would not be isolated from Europe or World issues. Westminster would still be implementing rules and law that came from outside the UK.

    Immigration would still remain high, as there are companies that operate across Europe, British based companies with international workforce moving to UK to work, British Universities wanting foreign students and lecturers, British people with foreign Spouses, Commonwealth citizens with rights to come to UK etc etc. Net migration to tens of thousands is never going to happen. Freedom of movement between EU and UK would continue, as part of free trade area.

    On the subject of polling about these issues, i have not see too much about polling on key issues. If Brexiters are mostly interested in immigration, i wonder whether they would still support leave, if rights of free movement would continue after Brexit as part of any new trading relationship.

  11. Actually, if the EU Parliament had the ability to make law, as our parliament does

    My understanding of how our Parliament works is that it has limited law making powers. Power to make laws is with Her Majesty’s Government, which is made up of MPs and others.

    It is actually very similar to the way the EU works.

  12. @EOTW

    True, but there is an election across the entire electorate that the UK parliament serves (the general election) where the population vote towards deciding the executive that does propose legislation (or its revocation).

    To influence the legislation-bringing executive in the EU, the EU population have to vote, at disparate times, for their national governments who propose its members.

    It’s more akin to complaining of “only” being able to vote for your local constituency MP, rather than the UK government as a whole, *if* we had retained the rotten boroughs and if every constituency voted at different times, there was no UK-wide campaigning and every candidate while having allegiances was effectively an independent in terms of their manifesto.

  13. Alun,

    “UK…the convergence of the state and its official religion.”

    Got to go a very long way back for that, even then it was never fully so.

    And its getting less and less true all the time.

    Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869. The episcopal church was in a small minority there even before this.

    Church in Wales disestablished in 1914. The episcopal church was in a minority there well before this.

    Church of Scotland is the “national religion” but not “established”, what is more it is Presbyterian not Episcopal. The queen is not the supreme governor of the Church of Scotland.

    Even the Church of England in England only for which this might refer it has to be said that convergence has moved more and more against this, with many laws now overruling official Anglican doctrine. If it were disestablished tomorrow very little difference would be noticed apart from on some official ceremonial and largely royal occasions, and the few English bishops who have the right to sit in the Lords (though they often don’t) would presumably be gone, though even that is not clear.

  14. @ EOTW

    Indeed, most laws in the UK are not made by Parliament (and not even discussed). However, Parliament has the right to protest or question any legislation brough forward by the government (although rarely it happens).

    Even that one with some caveats as the civil service has a high discretion in applying the law (actually more than the Commission of the EÜ).


    It’s not just that bishops have the right to vote on legislation. It’s also that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England has a weekly audience with the prime minister.

    It was a bizarre situation even in the past when most people were Anglican. These days, the CoE isn’t even the biggest belief group in the country. It’s anachronistic in indefensible.

    And yet it’s still not the biggest obstacle in democracy in these islands.

    The point is, to claim that leaving the EU would be a move to greater democracy is an argument that requires the person making it to have an excess of ignorance as to how both the EU and the UK work, or some brass neck of epic proportions.

    When it comes to democracy and the rule of law, the EU beats the UK hands down.

  16. @Alun009

    I think you are missing the point of BREXIT. Members of the UK political elite like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are not interested in ‘democracy’, they simply do not want to share political power with other European political elites.

    If you like what Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair did to or for the UK, imagine that without the presence of the EU, and if you like what you experienced vote for BREXIT.

    My brother, who is in his 70’s is a good example of this attitude, that remembers the British elites running an “empire”, and he wants to be governed exclusively by British elites.

    The problem with this thinking is that most of the political power is now vested in corporate board rooms that have “economies” that are larger than many small European countries.

    The nation state as a political entity is really passe, in that we will need to band together with other smaller nation states populations to try and bring under control the political elites that govern and operate the trans-national corporations.

    They after all are the ones on behalf of who all these “Free Trade” negotiations are being undertaken.These free trade agreements are not about how countries and their peoples will behave towards each other, they are exclusively about how corporations will be treated within both national and multi-national trading areas.

    If you think an exclusively UK Parliament can control that situation then I think you are dreaming in technicolour, and do not understand that we need supra-national parliaments to control supra-national corporations.

  17. Andy Shadrack:
    It’s odd, I agree with almost everything you said. But the way you’ve addressed it to makes me think you think we’re on opposing sides of this debate.

    I especially agree with the idea of parliaments making law that can effectively control the behaviour of supranational corporations. There does need to be a supranational framework for doing this, and what better than a parliament, elected by the people, proportional to whom they vote for? If you asked me what would be better at holding MNCs to account I’d be stumped. I literally cannot think of a better answer than what we already have. That’s a big part of why I’m not just voting Remain, but why I’ve been out campaigning to convince as many others to join me in that. And in leafy, sunny, souther Edinburgh this afternoon, the overall feel was resounding support. I hope that is replicated up and down the country.

  18. The point about the British Parliament making laws is that it is making them for the British people. If one government makes a law the people don’t like, then they can vote in another government at the next election to get rid of it.

    By comparison the EU is making laws for every country in Europe and many don’t suit us and we can do jack s**t about it because we are always outvoted.

    It is my belief that the unelected commissioners have blue sky thinking away days to see how many laws they can dream up.

    As for Aluns point about businesses having to adhere to EU regulations, then that may be the case but only for exporters, they would not need to apply to those thousands of small businesses who don’t export. They would be freed from a myriad of irrelevant red tape.

    And one point on the eu kite mark. Despite that and the free trade rules, nothing is for sale in France unless it also has the NF (nor me Francais) mark.
    This how they protect their manufacturers from competition. How do they get away with it. The same way Germany gets away with its massive trade surplus without sanction and the euro rules are frequently broken. It’s all corrupt.

  19. “we are always outvoted.”

    No we aren’t. What a silly thing for a sensible person to say.

  20. Robert Newark

    “nothing is for sale in France unless it also has the NF (nor me Francais) mark.”

    I hadn’t even heard of the NF mark till you mentioned it, so I had a quick search.

    As far as I can see, it applies only to electrical products. Why is this more damaging to free trade than the British Standards Kitemark?

  21. Apologies Alun. Often outvoted. Because we are in a minority we are bound to be.
    And nor me Francaise should read, Norme Francais.

  22. Isn’t the n f thing voluntary? I googled and it appears so.

  23. @Alun009

    I have not lived in the UK permanently since 1970, residing in Canada, but last year came back to work on Caroline Lucas’s re-election campaign in Brighton-Pavillion and thus re-established my UK residency, and so am voting “remain” as an overseas elector.

    Of six members in my immediate family four of us are voting “remain”, and I am working on changing the minds of the fifth and sixth.

    I think the EU was expanded much too fast into Central and Eastern Europe, in an attempt to capture a larger share of the global market, but also believe many of the problems facing the UK internally are as a result of the policies adopted by UK political elites, and therefore do not have anything to do with policies made in Europe.

    The lack of affordable housing and access to health care stems from policies adopted by Thatcher, that were continued by Tony Blair. Thatcher authorised the selling off of public housing without replacing it and Blair took the UK further down the road of privatizing the NHS. How is that the fault of the EU?

    Politicians love to blame the “external other” as a means of avoiding being accountable for their own failures and stupid mistakes. Fixing the mess we are in, vis a vis climate change, planetary environmental destruction
    and social chaos caused by ill suited economic policies requires us to reach across the ideological divide and work together.

    The issue is not capitalism versus socialism, it is industrialisation, and our commodification of all relationships with humans and non-humans. As leaders of First Nations in North America repeatedly told European immigrants and the end of the Nineteenth Century:

    “You cannot eat money”

  24. This is interesting on the UK record of being outvoted in Council of Ministers QM votes: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2015/11/02/does-the-uk-win-or-lose-in-the-council-of-ministers/

    Even in the post 2009 period, it’s only around 12% of the time. It was much lower up ’til then.

  25. @”Members of the UK political elite like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are not interested in ‘democracy’, they simply do not want to share political power with other European political elites.”

    Really like this one :-)

    Interesting definition of “Democracy”-the sharing of power with European Elites” !!!!!!

    Straight out of the Commission Play Book :-)


    @”most of the political power is now vested in corporate board rooms that have “economies” that are larger than many small European countries.”

    How does that work exactly?

    Do you mean that all our MPs get instructed how to vote by a ” corporate board member”? Does this not show up in Registers of MPs’ interests?

  27. O/T Here’s an information film made by the US War department during World War II to help American soldiers understand Britain before they were shipped here:


    Lots of quaint stuff. At about 2:40 the narrator says “there is more congestion in a square mile of Britain than any place on earth apart from the New York subway or perhaps a sardine can”. And also “Believe it or not, but even in wartime the British cop does not carry a gun”. :-)

  28. It’s quiet tonight.

    I guess everyone is watching Britain’s Got Talent. The lady who has trained her small fluffmeister dog to walk on it’s front legs and across a wall is a genuis.

    Make her PM.

  29. Well I’m watching my countryman Gareth Ble in the Champions League final

  30. That should read as “Bale”

  31. “Often outvoted. Because we are in a minority we are bound to be.”

    Every single country in the EU is in a minority. That’s what makes it so brilliant. And it’s why so many people in Scotland see their future as European rather than British. In the UK, all are minorities apart from England. In the EU, all are minorities, so all have to work together. It is to my regret than some UK parties and MEPs haven’t quite cottoned on to that yet.

  32. Candy
    Thanks for the link to the US film. It was a propaganda movie that I hadn’t seen before.

    Are the others in the series – the US ally of Joe Russian would be interesting – available?

  33. Alun009

    “Every single country in the EU is in a minority.”

    True – but it must be exasperating to some of those who are accustomed to their country being in an automatic majority within a Union to accept such a reality.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that a majority of Scots feel that the future is “European rather than British”.

    From the polling we know that almost 2/3 want to continue as part of the EU when in/out of that Union is the question.

    On the UK Union, opinion is roughly equally divided, when that question is asked.

    Over 30+ years, there has been a consensus around which most Scots have shown a willingness to coalesce – genuine Home Rule / Devo Max – but no party has put that forward as a real choice.

    The social and economic links with England (and the EU) are important to Scotland, so it seems likely that most Scots are unwilling to see these broken by Scotland being outwith both [1] Those preferring that option are the smallest group.

    Questions about hypothetical scenarios are always a bit dodgy, so I’d prefer to wait till post 23 June to see how Scots react.

    [1] I haven’t seen any polling on how Scots see relationships with England developing if one or both countries are outside the EU.

  34. @Andy Shadrack
    ‘As leaders of First Nations in North America repeatedly told European immigrants and the end of the Nineteenth Century:
    “You cannot eat money”’

    And look what happened to them.

    @R Huckle
    “Westminster would still be implementing rules and law that came from outside the UK.”

    Why would it? If businesses wanted to trade with the EU or the USA or whoever, they would need to produce goods according to the relevant standards, but why would that require legislation?

  35. No wonder Alan Johnson was being incandescent about Salmond (and the rest of the SNP, Plaid, and both Green parties) “rubbishing” the latest Project Fear announcements of impending doom by saying that Brexit would not be an “apocalypse”.

    According to AJ, any failure to go along with any Tory Remain fear tactic will be “damaging” to the Remain campaign.

    AJ was preparing for his own declaration of outlandish fear tactic – “Britain’s hopes of staging big sporting events like the Olympics or World Cup could be put at risk by Brexit . ”


    If these Westminster politicos had any minds, they would be showing themselves to be totally out of them!

    If anything risks Brexit happening, it’s the arrant stupidity of the London Remain campaign.

  36. I have it on reliable authority that a vote to Leave would result in the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse appearing immediately.

  37. Pete B

    Of course “Hispanics” in the USA aren’t Spanish – just the descendants of some of the many “First Nations” in America who English speaking immigrants didn’t wipe out, and are now taking their continent back. from the immigrants.

    You should be celebrating their success. :-)

  38. @ OldNat

    All are on YouTube. The Russian one is Battle of Russia (1943), the Chinese is the Battle of China …

    The easiest way to search is either by Copra or Why we fight. All the seven episodes are up.

  39. Pete B

    Sadly the Four Horsemen will appear (according to one side or the other) whatever the result.

    They appeared in Scotland in September 2014, but were placed in custody for breach of the peace.

    They’re still serving their sentence, so I doubt that they will be available to wreak havoc in England next month.

  40. @ OldNat

    These (and many other WW2 propaganda films) show that there is no competition with the Anericans if they put the resources in it.

  41. Yes Oldnat, principally electrical stuff.
    In practical terms, what the NF marking means is the French can keep out competition. So, a new source of low cost electrical fittings from China or elsewhere in the EU, even a central heating boiler is illegal in France without the NF mark. The boiler example is a recent quote I had. The one made & bought in France with NF was exactly twice the price of one which could be bought in the uk (obviously without NF). Same spec, same manufacturer but the ones they export don’t have NF on so they can’t be reimported into France at grey market prices.

    It is one grand wheeze to stifle any competition and protect French manufacturing. On one level I quite admire them for just taking all the subsidies and ignoring the bits (like free trade) which they don’t like. But it is really just one example of how corrupt the EU has become.

  42. Laszlo

    Thanks. Takes care of my evening viewing!

  43. @ OldNat

    The first of the series (prelude to the war) is very, very good (but the others too). And the director disliked FDR – humans are very complicated.

  44. @ Robert Newark

    The NF is a marketing tool (like the Geman purity law in beers), but effective – well more than then British meat (which is also a marketing tool).

    Back in the 1970s, they could deploy a much more effective system, like appointing one customs officer, who opened every single box of Japanese VCRs, read the manuals (if they were good in grammar), checked the part numbers, etc. The Japanese agreed on a voluntary reduction of VCR export to France.

  45. Robert Newark

    “even a central heating boiler is illegal in France without the NF mark”

    You may be right, and obviously anything like a central heating boiler which didn’t meet the French standards would be illegal to install – as would be the case in the UK, if it didn’t meet British standards.

    I’m assuming there is a difference between these standards, and there is not a single EU standard!

    That an EU country could establish such an obvious barrier to free trade, and that other countries (including the UK) are so incompetent as not to challenge it successfully, does surprise me.

  46. I hadn’t heard of the NF mark until today, but I realised a long time ago that part of the reason for the demise of much of manufacturing industry in the UK was prejudice against our own goods.
    The Brits delighted in rubbishing British Leyland cars back in the 70s but as someone who worked for Renault at the time I can assure you they were no better, and no better value. They sold very well here because obviousy foreign cars were beter than BL. The same prejudice was not in evidence in other European countries – rather the opposite.
    I agree with most of Andy Shadrack’s 2.49 pm post but I can’t agree with him about BoJo. His motivation has nothing to do with other political elites: it is purely about seizing power within he UK. That done, he would probably work to overturn Brexit, as he has hinted, because he has never believed in it.

  47. Oh, and just googling NF mark and BSI Kitemark, they are more or less identical. Both are issued by the local International Standards Organisation partner and both boast that they are a mark of quality both in France/Britain and around the civilised world.
    Someone is taking Robert Newmark for a ride!

  48. “I have it on reliable authority that a vote to Leave would result in the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse appearing immediately.”


    We’re gonna run out of horsemen at this rate…

  49. Guymonde

    But you have heard of the BSI kitemark?

    Back in the day, the MSM certainly delighted in rubbishing any UK industry where there was a significant Trade Union presence.

    Having a dominantly right wing press has consequences.

  50. Guymonde

    “Someone is taking Robert Newmark for a ride!”

    I suspect that might be the case – perhaps Pierre who installed his new boiler?


    “We’re gonna run out of horsemen at this rate…”

    No problem. There’s a stud farm in the Vale of Aylesbury breeding them for Conservative Central Office!

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