There are three new EU referendum polls today, a telephone poll from ORB and parallel phone and online polls from ICM.

The ORB poll for the Telegraph has topline figures of REMAIN 51%(-4), LEAVE 46%(+4), Don’t know 3%(nc) – full tables are here. The Telegraph wrote it up as immigration producing a significant swing towards Leave. I would normally have been ready to dismiss that as reading far too much into a poll that was probably just reversion to the mean: if you look at ORB’s previous figures their poll last week may have shown a thirteen point lead… but the two before that were almost identical to today’s figures. Newspapers may want to write that up as “big swing to Remain” followed by “big swing to Leave”, but a more parsimonious interpretation is just “slightly wonky sample returns to normal”.

However, today’s other polls from ICM raise more interesting questions.

ICM once again carried out two parallel polls, one conducted online, one conducted by telephone. So far all but one of these experiments have found a big gulf between phone and online polls (typically online polls show a race that’s neck-and-neck, telephone polls show a lead averaging around 8-10 points). ICM’s online poll found the sort of close race we’ve come to expect, with topline figures of REMAIN 44%(-1), LEAVE 47%(+2), Don’t know 9%(-1). ICM’s telephone poll found wholly unexpected results of REMAIN 42%(-5), LEAVE 45%(+6), Don’t know 13%(-1). Full tables for both are here.

There is nothing unusual about how the ICM poll was carried out that might explain the unusual result, it was done the same way as their previous telephone polls that showed Remain leads of seven or eight points. This leaves us with two obvious possibilities:

Either there has been a genuine movement towards Leave in recent days and the movement in the ICM poll reflects that (suggesting also that the ORB poll is showing more than just reversion to the mean), or…

ICM just got a really wacky sample by polling over the bank holiday weekend, and future telephone polls will revert to the normal pattern of solid remain leads.

Right now we can’t really tell. I will only urge my normal caveats about not reading too much into an individual poll, especially one conducted over a bank holiday weekend (whether or not that makes an actual difference or is “pollster folklore” is unclear. It’s certainly possible to point to clear examples of weird results from polls with bank holiday fieldwork, but it’s possible to point to weird results from polls conducted at other times and bank holiday results that are perfectly normal. While I’d always try to avoid polling over Easter or Christmas, I suspect in reality the Spring bank holiday doesn’t make that much difference to fieldwork). It will be interesting to see if forthcoming polls show a wider trend towards Leave, and if forthcoming telephone polls give any further suggestion that the online-phone gap may be disappearing.

156 Responses to “ICM phone poll shows Leave ahead”

1 2 3 4
  1. I’m hoping wacky Bank Holiday weekend sample!

  2. First?

    “Either there has been a genuine movement towards Leave in recent days and the movement in the ICM poll reflects that (suggesting also that the ORB poll is showing more than just reversion to the mean), or…”

    I’m happy to stick with the above. I do think there has been movement towards Brexit.

  3. The ICM tables are very interesting. Scotland as a whole (37%) leave but SNP supporters are 43% leave and 43% remain.

    Bit of a tartan tantrum with regards to the EU within the SNP.

  4. I was about to post on the previous thread. I don’t post all that often. What is the protocol? Does a new thread draw a line under all previous discussion?

  5. The ICM phone poll results scream “rogue poll”, for the reasons outlined above, in particular:
    a) polling over a BH weekend when well-to-do folk who favour Remain are likely to be particularly difficult to contact by phone;
    b) the swing from the previous ICM phone poll is massive; and
    c) the contemporaneous ICM “on line” poll gives similar results, which is “out of line” with previous findings.

    I still expect a Remain win by >10% on 23/6/16.

  6. I’m not at all surprised to see a big swing towards leave,
    The remain campaign has focussed on economic predictions, which are widely seen as unreliable, on statements by people and organisations which either have a vested interest or which are outside the UK, and on statements by Government ministers and others who are becoming personally more and more unpopular as the wildness of their exaggerations becomes increasingly apparent, and identified with elitism which separated them from ordinary people .

    Meanwhile they cannot respond to ‘leave’ observations which hone in on the lack of democratic accountability as epitomised, in particular, by our inability to control immigration while we remain in the EU, and all the consequences of this for education, the health service and jobs.

    There is a moral component to this, which is not often put forward. Let it be defined in the question ‘why should we share the value of assets created by ourselves and our forefathers, through taxation, (such as schools, hospitals, roads, public buildings and social structures etc.) with others who have not contributed? There are obviously significant numbers of citizens who think that we need democratic mans of controlling this.

  7. I have been surprised recently how many people I talk to have not made up their mind. I sense that some who were certain a few weeks ago are not so sure now. Perhaps the campaigns have made people think more deeply.

  8. @Clive Elliot

    I don’t think your comment is within the spirit of the comments policy. We could quickly descend into the political arguments, rather than debate of the polls.


    I don’t think there’s a set protocol, but precious discussions tend to die as we all focus on the new bright shiny thing.

  9. @Dave
    Previous discussions. Although they may also be precious.

  10. The 2 ICM Polls coincided with a lot of media ‘immigration’ exposure. This issue is still the number one concern among voters. The Bank holiday perhaps helped to focus minds in front of TV sets!

  11. The immigration issue is quite potent so a noticeable nudge towards Leave pretty much all week is virtually guaranteed. Curious to see how the Remain campaign will attempt to divert the narrative.

  12. DUNHAM111
    “The ICM phone poll results scream “rogue poll”

    The ORB poll is also showing quite a big swing towards Brexit but the next couple of polls hopefully due out this week will give us some indication if there has been a genuine movement or not towards Brexit.

    I’ve always said the polls would get much tighter the closer we get to polling day. I personally think Cameron has played all his trump cards way too early and remain have peaked to early.

    Thanks, clearly regular posters can’t keep up with all past discussions. I think it may cast peripheral rather than central discussions adrift, though these can be very interesting. (I was intending to comment on the problem for democracy of a government with 37% support being able to do as it likes, pointing out that the 37% who don’t vote could overcome that.)

  14. As I have said all along, Leave will win.

    The Grumpy Old Men who want to Leave, also tend to vote.

    Young people, who are most inclined to Remain, do not tend to vote.

    This – like Trump in the USA and the rise of Le Pen etc.. in Europe – is a sign of the times. Reactionary and populist politics are in the ascendancy.

    And young people, who could prevent that (to my mind) unpleasant turn in global political events, are too busy/disillusioned to vote in sufficient numbers to prevent it.

  15. This latest clutch of EU polls suggests that the Leave campaign may have got the Big Mo going. If so, they’re timing it perfectly with only three weeks to go and the next encouraging sign for them might be signs of panic in the Remain ranks. I watched the Leave TV political broadcast tonight and whilst it was ludicrous and puerile on one level, it was probably quite effective on another, locating some of the wavering Brexiteers erogenous zones quite cleverly. Home straight in sight and maybe Leave is breaking into a bit of a gallop.

    I’ve been quite candid about where I stand with all this. I’ve been given a chance to kick the Government here and I’m minded to take it. Membership of the EU is not something that gets me out of bed in the morning and the benefits of membership, and the risks of withdrawal are both greatly exaggerated in my view. I’m implacably opposed to these matters being decided by a referendum anyway, especially one like this that was conceived on shoddy and expedient internal party management grounds. Cameron deserves a kick in the goolies for his authorship of such a ridiculous stunt.

    I was going to abstain but I’m swaying towards a Leave vote. Perfect scenario is a very narrow Remain vote and then outright Tory civil war.


  16. I would suggest caution with these new polls. They are out of line.

    Regarding the SNP, I am surprised so many of them are for leaving the EU.

    In Northern Ireland a poll out today shows nationalists overwhelmingly for remain. Go here for the link to the belfast Telegraph:

  17. Dave

    Usual protocol is that you can keep posting on the old thread if you want, but after a few hours people probably won’t check it.

    More important is that you don’t carry over one of those dull, “end of thread” arguments and pollute the fresh-as-a-daisy new discussion. However, if the new thread is on exactly the same subject as the last one (as is often the case recently, with all threads being about the EU referendum) then it’s fair enough so long as the post is on-topic.

  18. Allan Christie

    A really really daft point about the SNP basing your claim on a sub sample of 41 in the ICM phone poll! And its not even SNP but SNP+Plaid+others

    The sub sample of these others in the larger on line poll (170) shows 61-28 in favour!!!!

  19. I’m starting to think that the pollsters, and the bookies, have got this spectacularly wrong.

    The traditional polling companies typically test a sample of 1000 – 5000 people to get their predictions. But if you look at the many online polls on other non-political sites, such as Money Saving Expert, Google community, Digital Spy etc., where the number of respondents is in the tens of thousands, the pro-Leave percentage is anywhere between 60 and 90%.

    A similar pattern can be seen on comments on national newspaper articles, and on social media.

    All the indications are that Leave will win, and win comfortably.

  20. David Carrod

    It can’t be explained by the larger sample size. Those Money Saving Expert (etc) sites will not have a balanced sample. Far more important to have a representative sample, than a larger sample, once the sample is over about 1000. According to statistical theory we teach at university and school.

  21. Scotslass: thanks for that info. Scrub my comment on SNP supporters in light of your comment.


    Yes it’s a sub sample and the SNP (next page down) made up the bulk of the sub sample. In Holyrood after the Tories the SNP are the most pro Brexit. Look back at previous sub samples. I mentioned this several times over the past few months.

    There is nothing wrong with SNP Brexiters, they are still human like the rest of us. I think many in the SNP have their backs to the wall and are in denial that a significant part of their support favours Brexit

  23. @David Carrod

    History show clearly that very large but unrepresentative samples tell you very little, where smaller, more representative polls are much more accurate.

    If you are so confident on ‘Leave’ winning, I’d rush down the bookies with lots of cash. They are giving great odds…



    “I was going to abstain but I’m swaying towards a Leave vote”

    Come on you can do it..;-)

  25. ” I personally think Cameron has played all his trump cards way too early and remain have peaked to early.”

    I think he had to, as he can’t produce government reports in the last four weeks.

  26. Declaring an interest, I am Labour, pro Remain, and campaign in Nottingham.
    My take of general feeling on the door step. After Easter we averaged IN:OUT about even and a lot of don’t knows(DKs). Over the last two weeks IN has pulled ahead but still a lot of DKs and some of those DKs will be shy leavers. It is too soon since the the change to immigration focus to get canvassing data.
    What pro INers are worried about is the potential banana skins:
    – If it looks like a vote to remove David Cameron many on the Corbyn side of Labour will not vote for IN.
    – A terrorist attack blamed on immigrants or Migrant disaster.

    In general, from ‘a get out the vote point of view’ having an early referendum is a bit of a disaster, we don’t have much of the electorate canvassed.

  27. Prof Howard

    Thanks for the link to the Lucid Talk poll.

    There’s a delightful discontinuity between the conventional terminology and this referendum.

    The Irish Nationalists are the unionists. Those usually described as Unionists are actually British Nationalist separatists. :-)

  28. @Crossbatii

    Are you really going to vote on the basis of giving Cameron what he deserves rather than on your judgement of the rights and wrongs of the matter? A number of people having been saying this sort of thing. (e.g. ‘I would have voted in but for all the exaggeration’ or ‘out but for Boris Johnson’s naked self interest’). I agree that no one can really know what the right answer is. But surely this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try and come up with a judgement on it rather than decide on the grounds of a personal dislike. It doesn’t sound like you at all. But then again these campaigns seem to be turning a lot of people very odd.

  29. ICM online also had a voting intention poll:

    ICM/Guardian (Online): CON 36 (+2), LAB 31 (-1), LIB 7 (=), UKIP 17 (=), GRN 4 (=)


    Quite notable to see the language Tusk uses here – “Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe, do not share our Euro-enthusiasm.”

    It does appear that the EU vote is beginning to have an effect across the EU, and if this report is accurate, the signs are that even if there is a vote for remain, the process might well have banged together some heads and caused some significant realignment within the EU.

    This also hints at something the leave campaign haven’t really got across, in my view. The vote isn’t a choice between this EU and an uncertain life on the outside; it is between and uncertain life on the outside and life within an uncertain EU that may change substantially in the future.

  31. Like many, I was going to abstain, but then I saw the ludicrous Remain campaign, and the absurdity of the Brexit message, and decided not to vote.

  32. Has the EU become like Agent Smith in the Matrix? Too powerful to control, such that it can foist stuff on us regardless of whether we stay or go?*

    * Think there might be a song in there somewhere…

  33. Old Nat


    By the way there was a MORI poll earlier in the week in NI that found a more even balance among Protestants/Unionists than is suggested in that Lucid Talk poll. I am not sure which is more reliable.

    In NI there are two specific worries about leaving the EU and NI unionists worry about the first, and NI nationalists worry about the second:

    1. That leaving the EU could trigger a Scottish departure from the UK, with implications for the UK union as a whole.

    2. That leaving the EU makes the border in Ireland more noticeable and significant.

  34. Carfew what is the difference between abstaining and not voting?

  35. @Prof Howard

    One of them sounds a bit more principled than the other…

  36. ‘The vote isn’t a choice between this EU and an uncertain life on the outside; it is between and uncertain life on the outside and life within an uncertain EU that may change substantially in the future.’

    I completely agree. Furthermore, the electorate can vote out a UK government and reject its legislation (such as trade deals like TTIP, TISA and CETA) if it is outside the EU but all future govts will be bound by EU agreements if we vote for Remain.

  37. Incredible that Tusk failed to notice that more than 10% of the European Parliament is represented by right-wing Eurosceptic parties in the EFDD and ENF groups. That’s a lot of Eurosceptics that the commission was pretty blind to.

  38. Syzygy

    So you reject all the arguments about the benefits of “pooling and sharing” and “sharing risks” that were so dominant in 2014?

    Your post sounds like a bog [1] standard nationalist [2]argument about the sovereignty of your UK state being more important.

    [1] Yes. i know the origin of the term – and it seems rather appropriate in this context. :-)

    [2] “nationalist” in the sense that the “state” should be co-terminous with the people living in a certain geographic area, that was shaped by previous political/military factors – which must now remain immutable.

  39. Carfew

    I think a lot of people would worry about both. Each of them makes NI’s position a little more difficult. So I’d say they’re both principled enough positions.

    By the way the LEAVE campaign in NI is run by one Lee Reynolds, the person who is behind more of the DUP’s election success in recent years.

  40. Carfew

    Ignore my 11.20.

    Sorry I misunderstood your thing about principled, I now see you mean that “abstaining” is principled and “not voting” is not so much.

  41. Old Nat

    Off topic perhaps, but were you surprised by the success of the Scottish Conservatives in the Holyrood elections? It seemed to come out of the blue to me ( pardon the pun).

  42. Polltroll

    “Incredible that Tusk failed to notice that more than 10% of the European Parliament is represented by right-wing Eurosceptic parties in the EFDD and ENF groups. That’s a lot of Eurosceptics that the commission was pretty blind to.”

    What a coincidence! 10% of the MPs elected to the UK Parliament in 2015 were “UKsceptics”. I haven’t noticed any less blindness from The UK to that.

  43. I find it surprising that on a polling site the “if we leave, at least we can change our government” line is trotted out. For all the talk of an unreformed and undemocratic EU, the lack of scrutiny of the unreformed and undemocratic UK is baffling to me. It’s more or less psephological fact that actually most of us don’t have a chance of influencing Westminster elections and are more likely to get our vote counted for the European Parliament.

    I increasingly suspect the final result will be extremely marginal, probably a very narrow remain win but the Leave campaign has definitely managed to build a much sharper and more focussed (if also much more disingenuous in my view) message than Remain, and the media focus for Remain is predictably on the beleaguered PM (and when Labour gets media time it’s the “is Corbyn’s heart in this” story) rather than actually giving other remainers a good chance to put their case.

  44. Prof Howard

    It’s a bit of a stretch to describe the Tory performance in the Holyrood election as “a success”!

    In few Parliaments would getting 22/23% of the vote be so described.

    That the “Ruth Davidson Party” got almost half of the “Yoon” vote wasn’t greatly surprising. That’s what they campaigned for, while SLab were their (now normal) inchoate self.

    The referendum didn’t just change voting patterns on the nationalist (unionist in the current debate, of course, along with all the other parties in the Scottish Parliament) side – but also an inevitable degree of realignment on the Unionist (still the appropriate term!) side.

    SLab could never hold on to its right wing Unionist vote, when there was a real right wing Unionist party to vote for. It also couldn’t hope to hold on to its middle-class public sector worker vote once they were a political irrelevance.

  45. Judging by the posters appearing in windows – surprisingly numerous and overwhelmingly Remain (in all their technicolour variety) I live in the Europhile heartlands, not a shock.

    What is more noteworthy is the level of campaign activity here – regular groups of Remainers, well-organised and resourced outside the Tube station and other strategic spots, mailshots galore and door knocks.

    It looks like the ‘In’ lot are just as focused on getting their core vote out as are ‘Brexit’.

    Totally anecdotal of course, but the streets round here were bereft of cars at the weekend as every household with children seemed to head out of town. Like migratory birds responding to some invisible call from the south.

  46. @Oldnat,

    Yes, that blind old UK, fervently taking powers away from the home countries and relocating them to Westminster, refusing to give the people of the home countries a say in their own affairs and barely even acknowledging that some nationalists were elected to parliament?

  47. @Assiduosity,

    I think the most important word in your post was probably “Tube”.

  48. Assiduosity — whereabouts do you live? Somewhere like Bristol West, Oxford, Cambridge or London I guess.

  49. “It’s more or less psephological fact that actually most of us don’t have a chance of influencing Westminster elections and are more likely to get our vote counted for the European Parliament.”


    Oh sure, FPTP etc. has its issues, but in the end, at least our floaters in the marginals can oust the government while even a proportional system in the EU parliament could easily leave us with little effect even if we voted to change all our MePs because they’re in such a minority.

  50. @Neil A @Andy JS

    Yes, London.

    There are some parts of the UK capital that are actually quite Brexit, contrary to popular belief – I’ve seen flurries of ‘Out’ posters as one might expect down in Eltham (South East) and quite a number in very nicely appointed riverside houses in Hammersmith.

    None round here in leafy north London, much loathed of the right wing press (except when it comes for somewhere to live).

1 2 3 4