Opinium have a new EU referendum poll in the Observer. The topline figures are REMAIN 43%, LEAVE 41%, Don’t know 14%… if you get the data from Opinium’s own site (the full tabs are here). If you read the reports of the poll on the Observer website however the topline figures have Leave three points ahead. What gives?

I’m not quite sure how the Observer ended up reporting the poll as it did, but the Opinium website is clear. Opinium have introduced a methodology change (incorporating some attitudinal weights) but have included what the figures would have been on their old methodology to allow people to see the change in the last fortnight. So their proper headline figures show a two point lead for Remain. However the methodology change improved Remain’s relative position by five points, so the poll actually reflects a significant move to leave since their poll a fortnight ago showing a four point lead for Remain. If the method had remained unchanged we’d be talking about a move from a four point remain lead to a three point leave lead; on top of the ICM and ORB polls last week that’s starting to look as if something may be afoot.

Looking in more detail at the methodology change, Opinium have added weights by people’s attitudes towards race and whether people identify as English, British or neither. These both correlate with how people will vote in the referendum and clearly do make a difference to the result. The difficulty comes with knowing what to weight them to – while there is reliable data from the British Electoral Study face to face poll, race in particular is an area where there is almost certain to be an interviewer effect (i.e. if there is a difference between answers in an online poll and a poll with an interviewer, you can’t be at all confident how much of the difference is sample and how much is interviewer efffect). That doesn’t mean you cannot or should not weight by it, most potential weights face obstacles of one sort or another, but it will be interesting to see how Opinium have dealt with the issue when they write more about it on Monday.

It also leaves us with an ever more varied picture in terms of polling. In the longer term this will be to the benefit of the industry – hopefully some polls of both modes will end up getting things about right, and other companies can learn from and adapt whatever works. Different companies will pioneer different innovations, the ones that fail will be abandoned and the ones that work copied. That said, in the shorter term it doesn’t really help us work out what the true picture is. That is, alas, the almost inevitable result of getting it wrong last year. The alternative (all the polls showing the same thing) would only be giving us false clarity, the picture would appear to be “clearer”… but that wouldn’t mean it wasn’t wrong.

274 Responses to “Understanding today’s Opinium poll”

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  1. Well easier to offshore SERVICES, was the point…

  2. @Candy

    “Are people thinking that £100 is a cheap price?”


    Maybe now but look back at the figures a couple months ago when Remain had a 9 point lead on asking the question…

  3. Regarding this “Reverse-Maastricht” wheeze that the pro-EU MPs are floating – it’s easy for them to talk now, but when the referendum results come out (and they will be counted at a council level) and the MP realizes that his constituency has voted Leave – how brave do you think they will be in defying their voters, and then facing them at the next general election?

    That’s why I think they’ll honour the results of the referendum no matter which way they go. Annoying voters is not a smart thing to do as the LibDems found.

  4. Candy: Regarding YouGov tabs.
    ‘Every region is for Leave, apart from London and Scotland’.
    Does that apply to Wales and N. Ireland?

  5. Yes the Referendum outcome has to be honoured whatever the outcome.

  6. Good Evening All.
    Exciting Times i think.

    Much closer Referendum Race than in 1975.

    Callaghan was quite a consensual figure and Harold left it to Jim to lead for the Government.

    It was interesting to see Tony Benn’s son being interviewed this evening.

  7. Re reverse Maastricht, the problem which the Brexiters have is that the referendum vote is about leaving the EU and not for any specific post Brexit arrangements. So anything – such as joining the EEA – which does not frustrate that vote is legitimate.

    The other interesting aspect is whether any post Brexit legislation will require legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and NI Assemblies.

  8. @ Thoughtful
    ‘The game changer for the UK is social security, benefits attracting poor migrants are housing benefit and child benefit, and we have the NHS,’

    No – the game changer is that we have lots of jobs that we can’t fill; our unemployment rate is significantly lower than those other countries despite all these immigrants. It is a right-wing fiction that the draw for EU economic migrants lies in benefits or the NHS.

    The language also plays a major part – almost every East European has to learn English and Russian, and Putin’s Russia is not too appealing these days.

    If benefits are a draw it is mainly for non-EU refugees.

    ‘Well there’s also this idea that it might be easier for other countries in the EU to keep shunting them all along till they end up with us, and we don’t have anywhere to move then on to.’

    That argument makes no sense at all in respect of EU economic
    migrants who aren’t ‘shunted’ by anyone but choose to come here.

    It may apply to refugees, but last time I looked at the stats we took proportionately less than many of our EU partners.

    People come here to work because we have the jobs that need filling, have a reputation for tolerance, and they speak our language – it’s not really complicated…

  9. @Bigfatron

    Yes, we have attractive qualities. But so do some other EU nations. No doubt we are the first choice for many.

    But that doesn’t mean other nations, for all they might espouse free movement in theory, might not have some mechanisms in practice to facilitate moving on.

    But I’m just wondering if anyone has anything more specific. If not, then fair enough…

  10. @Bigfatron

    That’s another way of moving migrants on of course, keep unemployment rate quite high.

  11. CARFREW:
    “I’ll throw you a lifeline cos I’m nice like that”

    I don’t need your lifeline. I need you to understand something. I have read up about TTIP, I’ve read up about ISDS. I do not come to the same conclusion about it as you do.

    What you seem unable to grasp is that someone can be in a relatively educated position of taking no judgement on something. I do not know why I have to keep repeating it to you. You keep rattling at me as if I somehow have to take a view on it, come down on one side of the fence or the other. What the hell is your problem? Why do you so desperately need me to decide my position?

    I feel like I’m sat in a bar reading a book, and you walk in and point out that France are beating Germany 3-0 in the soccerball or something, and you urgently need to know who I support. Well, the answer is neither. But you must support one of them, you continue. No, I’m just trying to read my book, but by the look of it, the game’s over: 10 minutes left, 3-0. Bit late to start cheering anyone even if I did care.

    Read up about how good Giroud is! you cry. Yes, yes, I actually know a bit about the teams involved, I just don’t care which team wins. Yes, Giroud is good, and so is Götze.. but I’m trying to read this book here. “What are you reading anyway? A novel by Max Frisch. Huh, sounds like a German speaker so I assume you secretly support Germany?”

    It’s interminable. Really. I’m not hiding anything from anyone. I’m not afraid to voice my opinion — you know this already! — I just don’t have one in this case. Same with what currency an independent Scotland should use. I honestly don’t care. I know you’re desperate to criticise my choice when I finally, as you say, “reveal” it, but there’s nothing to reveal. Aside from the fact it’s a moot point (there’s no referendum, no mandate for one, and insufficient desire for one, including from me), even when I do think about it, I find myself unable to say which possibility suits me best. It’s a decision I’ve decided to defer. And, listen, I am allowed to do that.

    It is a little disrespectful to ask me a question on my opinion and then not take my answer at face value. I don’t really understand why you can’t accept it, but at this stage I’m actually quite bored of it. I can accept and even enjoy a discussion where someone disagrees with me on a matter of opinion, but I cannot enjoy a conversation where the person whom I speaking to doesn’t even believe me when I express my opinion.

    Try Oldnat. Perhaps they have an opinion on currency and you can have the conversation with them. I personally feel no desire to form an opinion just so you can sit in judgement on it.

  12. And of course, easy for other nations to stick to free movement if they know our language means we’ll get more of it than them.

  13. @Alun

    No one is saying you have to decide!! You just wrote reams on that to little good effect.

    If you don’t wanna engage with problems with the Indy or Pro EU position, that’s up to you.

    It’s just that the pattern is notable, and it’ll hamper your ability to represent the Indy view when on the doorstep, or to be non-partisan.

    But it’s up to you if you want it that way…

  14. DavidJ

    Wales is lumped in with the Midlands in the YouGov tabs and N Ireland is ignored.

  15. Hireton:

    I’m just catching up on today’s news having been at an event for a few hours. My initial reaction to this “reverse Maastricht” (really, there must be a less clumsy way of saying that!) is exactly as yours: the mandate IF there were to be a leave vote is to Leave the EU and that’s that.

    If the Leave camp were to set some detail about what they think should happen afterwards in a unified way, then that vision ought to have some force post-referendum, should their side win. But the fact that there is no consensus at all even within the official Leave campaign means that there can never be any mandate whatsoever for anything that is currently disputed amongst them.

    So far, I see one single unifying idea in the Leave camp, and that is exit from the EU. If they win the vote, remaining members of the single market, or leaving it, is a decision entirely and properly to be made by our parliament.

  16. Alun 009

    “Try Oldnat. Perhaps they have an opinion on currency and you can have the conversation with them.”

    Carfrew can try if he wants, but he is a bit of the pub bore – demanding that every one listens to whatever he wants to discuss.

    Consequently, I normally ignore him.

  17. @alun

    You know you were saying earlier that you couldn’t envisage anything other than Brexit justifying an Indyref, and I was kinda thinking maybe Nicola would find summat else…

    …Well, found summat by accident a couple hours ago:, when reading up on the impact of SNP on the election last year.


    “THE First Minster says the PM’s proposal for English votes for English laws will drive the UK to the brink of separation”

    One presumes as an SNP supporter you’ll be backing Nicola, but you’re free to stand by your original claim. Or not, it’s up to you. No pressure etc…

  18. @oldnat

    You used to try your spiel on me, but you know better these days. Still not ignoring me though, cos you’re talking about me with Alun.

    If you want boring, some of those all night quibbles of yours, Jesus. They don’t happen so much these days, odd that innit?

    Anyways, that data you posted the other day, I read it and noted that while trust of Westminster is down, seemed like data showed peeps feel more liable to get what they want via Holyrood, which may explain why less fussed about Independence.

    In light of the British referendum here’s what the Austrian Foreign Minister had to say:

    Within the European Union, Kurz [Austria’s foreign minister] said the principle of free movement meant EU citizens were migrating to countries with the most generous social welfare systems. He said Austria should follow Britain in seeking ways to treat foreigners differently from its own citizens when it comes to benefit payments.

    It really doesn’t matter what you or I believe, what is important is what voters believe and whether it sways their voting intentions.

  20. I noticed some slightly curious things in the YouGov target weighting tables…
    In the 25-54 bracket 36% of the target number have “high education” whereas in the <25 bracket only 18% have.

    I thought University participation was now around 43%, and certainly higher than it was for the 25-54 age group?
    Yougov just say that the numbers are based on the Labour Force Survey and the ONS mid year estimates. it looks like the target % are total voters, not registered voters, if that was not resolved before..

    Anyway whilst it is clear how YouGov construct their it seems to me that how you then weight likelihood to vote is the key thing, and for the referendum the way in which you address the competing trends of older folk to vote on the one hand and ABC1 folk to vote on the other is far from clear…

  21. @Andrew111

    Remember that the under 25s are really the 18-25s and if higher education = “have you got a degree” then the 18-21 group won’t have higher education by definition because they haven’t yet completed their degrees.

  22. CARFREW:
    I think Nicola is the finest politician in this land, but I don’t agree with her on everything. And I’ll reiterate what I said earlier: I can’t see anything other than Europe that is worth a new referendum.

    An EVEL story from last year is definitely in the realm of “seen”.

  23. @Alun

    Okies. And Nicola is a very capable politician it must be said…

  24. @A C re Colin
    It’s a secret ballot. Colin can be a Won’t Say. He doesn’t have to be a WNV.
    But my post was really about his complaint about lack of, or distortion of, information, and how to overcome that perception.
    Another source is YouTube clips of the EU leaders, especially the ‘unelected’ Commissioners who actually propose new laws and Directives. The blue card questions to UKIP MEPs, and to others, and the answers, are also instructive.

    I gained my antipathy to the EEC/EU from having to follow the myriad new Directives and Regulations every day in the Official Journal, but I accept (with difficulty) the idea that others might welcome them.

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