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. We really need to hear from one of the 4 telephone polling companies who had big remain leads to have a clue where we stand.

    Last polls were
    Survation- remain +6
    ORB- remain +5
    Comres- remain +11
    Mori- remain +18

    Until they report I don’t think we can assume there has been a definite swing to leave.

    Ironically one other event that might swing it for remain is polls saying Leave is ahead and the Markets throw a wobbly- especially if this is in the final week. Anything earlier and the markets will be all panicked out and chillaxed again.

  2. @Alun

    “In other news, I note your continued attempts to revisit oil prices as a live issue.”


    I know you don’t like to talk about it and consider it immaterial but It is a live issue regardless of what you or I think about it. It’s very much in the news, indeed on the front pages of Scots press:

    “A pessimistic outlook from North Sea oil firms is the lead for the Herald, with one in three expecting to cut more jobs this year.

    The oil industry’s woes risk dragging down the country’s economy, according to the Scotsman which says economists are predicting the slowest growth since 2012.”


    As to whether Westminster is doing enough to mitigate, I’d prolly say no, but I doubt any party would do as much on energy as I would like to do.

    You need investment to mitigate though and if Scots were Independent now, money would be tight with oil prices so low.

    (Btw, Aberdeen are running a bus service on hydrogen, so it’s not all gloom…)

  3. “if we had proportionality in the Commons and elected second chamber, would you then be in favour of the Union”

    I thought I’d save this question for its own post, since it seems that more than one person might be interested in my response. My answer:

    It would certainly pull me in that direction. It might be enough to make the difference between me being in favour of the UK remaining a single state.

    In practice, I don’t find it easy to be definite about the answer to the question, but I can say with some sureness that the utterly anachronistic and unfair electoral system is a big part of it for me.

    Part of the thing that attracted me to independence was after moving to Scotland and coming to pay attention to Scottish politics, I realised that Holyrood is so much better in the way it’s organised. I don’t think that Scottish residents are any better than English ones, but I do think that the systems Scotland has are better. I want this to be the way my country is governed. Independence is one route to that. If there’s another way, it could be enough for me. As it stands, though, I see independence as the most achievable way to that.

    I’m not sure, but quite possibly.

  4. The Other Howard

    Oh I wasn’t suggesting that you were advocating either side – just pointing out that the Leave side has at least as much explaining to do over immigration as the ‘Remainers’ do.

    Probably more in fact. To take one example the Leave side are making much play of cutting back on ‘red tape’ and ‘bureaucracy’. But you actually need much more of that if you are to crack down on immigration because you have to monitor and enforce the rules.

  5. @Hireton

    Yeah, if in doubt, can’t deal with the issues, dismiss peeps as little Englanders!!

    An ad hominem that applies even less to those of us whose parents were immigrants from the continent though!!!

    Even if I weren’t the child of immigrants, it would still be true that electorate have less clout in the EU, that immigration is difficult to control, TTIP issues, issues about whether another indyref cos of EU is valid, issues about oil prices, currency etc. all remain an issue whether Englander or not.

    The little Englander koolaid seems to be powerful stuff, it even had peeps thinking oil prices couldn’t crash, but not everyone drinks it you see, as was evidenced in the Indyref!!

  6. @Alun

    See, there’s the thing. You could just campaign, like LibDems or Greens, for a different electoral system.

    And in the EU, you LIKE the fact we can’t effect much change. And if Scots join EU independent of UK, they’ll be effecting even less!!

    I am surprised TTIP doesn’t seem to bother you either. When your beloved Holyrood is getting sued by corporates it might curtail its efficacy somewhat…

  7. @Roger Mexico

    Concerning immigration, which I tend to avoid cos it’s such a hot potato, what’s the granularity of the polling like?

    Like, we may know who’s concerned about it, but how many want numbers curbed outright, versus those who accept the numbers because of growth, needing certain roles filling etc. but want it managed better, etc.

    How many get that a lot of immigration is outside the EU etc.?

    How many aren’t bothered about numbers per se, it’s entitlement to benefits that’s the issue…?

  8. NEILJ
    1. My own research with people who have actually voted by post in Midlands and London,
    2. chats to VL and Remain insiders (from the inner circles) and canvassers in Midlands, London South-East.
    3. My calculation of turnout based mainly on 2011, 2014 and 2015. This is why I keep beggng others on site to give me their best info, insight, on turnout. I am grateful to the person who disagrees with me and puts it at 65% or over because this would blow my analysis.
    4. Core belief Leavers will vote, Remainers may not vote because they just may not vote (hence turnout figure is crucial 20 mlllon or 30 million turnout is difference between Leave big win and Remain big win.
    5. Core belief that those 4 million Ukipvoters in 2014 and 2015 are a given and that the Tories will break for Leave and Labour voters in the safest Midlands and North seats will break for Leave but those in London for Remain. I assume LibDems from 2015 knew LibDem policy was no referendum and always stay in EU.
    6. I think Leave get to 12 million plus (depends on Welsh Nats, Scots, Irish) but then struggle to get (on present data) converts without my October surprise gamechanger appearing (be it Conscription – EU imposing 3 euro hour minimum wage – Cologne type attacks in Bournemouth whatever).
    Remain have the latent status quo inertia play safe Project Fear support but turnout decides if Latent becomes patent. 65% turnout plus and Remain may be laughing. Under 50% then look up which exit plan we are adopting. I believe some Civil Servants are reading Flexcit by Dr Richard A E North.
    7. Once again guys please please please try to get (If only for me) by any means reliable guide to likely turnout and rate of return of postal votes measured against 2015, 2014 and 2011.


    Not really convincing for me. I think the polls could be a little out, but that far, very unlikely.
    But if you are so certain there are still good odds for leave,not as good as a couple of weeks ago, but still good. I suggest you remortgage, borrow as much as you can and stick it all on leave, you will make a fortune.

  10. @Roger Mexico

    “At least with Scottish independence there was an attempt to map out what the SNP would then do. Whether it was convincing or not is another matter, but at least it was there.”


    It’s possible that might be a step too far Rog? Not sure that selling Scots peeps a pup on oil prices and currently etc. is better than just keeping quiet or going “dunno”…

  11. The Little Englander point is really silly – especially if one compares it to the continent.

    Hungarian village (there is a video about it). German family who wants to buy a house as a second home spots a woman with a kerchief on her head (indicating that she is married and her age) coming actually from the Catholic Church of the village (but it is not known to the family). Seeing the hesitation on the face of the customers, the estatate agent hurriedly says, “She’s a Hungarian Muslim, so she is OK”.

  12. Then we have… the Norway comparison. They have to accept certain things to get the trade deal.

    But we are quite a lot bigger than Norway. Hence despite Cameron not getting much in his negotiations, we did at least get an opt out on transaction tax.

    Another way people might look at it is, well ok, maybe it turns out we wind up with similar, but we might not so let’s give it a go, at least there’s a chance.

  13. Off topic but.
    I have one question and wonder what happens to all the British politicians who are paid or due a pension from the EU. Who is responsible for these payments in the future.

  14. “See, there’s the thing. You could just campaign, like LibDems or Greens, for a different electoral system.”

    See, you missed one particular party out there. The SNP is committed to changing the electoral system. So when I campaign for the SNP, I am absolutely campaigning for electoral reform.

    At this stage, you may congratulate me for choosing the right political party to represent my own wishes. If you want.

  15. Or they might think… ok, we take a trade hit in the EU but preparec to take the hit to control immigration. in any case, lower paid might gain from less immigration, and we could focus on more trade elsewhere, EU not growing much etc.

    In other words, Leave don’t HAVE to accept immigration regardless.

  16. “I am surprised TTIP doesn’t seem to bother you either.”

    I see you’re on a mission to crash through as many hot topics as possible! Nothing wrong with that, but the lack of focus does somewhat crimp the deeper analyses which I favour.

    I am concerned about some aspects of TTIP, but I am open minded to it too. I see a lot of mythmaking about it, and I think that public opinion has somewhat left the facts behind when it comes to TTIP. My sense is that TTIP is too far gone in the minds of the public now, and as someone who’s merely open minded and not a full-throated advocate for TTIP, I don’t feel motivated to try to turn back that tide. If you are imagining me as a supporter of TTIP, I’m sorry to slightly disappoint you. I do tend to reserve judgement on complex things until I’ve looked thoroughly into them. I feel little motivation to look more into TTIP when it seems that the forces ranged against it have strangled it at birth. I have no view on whether that’s a tragedy or a mercy.

  17. Here are the YouGov tabs for their latest EU ref poll:


    Every region is for Leave, apart from London and Scotland.

    Also they had the following question:

    Imagine that if the UK left the European Union the
    standard of living would be lower and people would on
    average be £100 a year worse off. In those
    circumstances, how would you vote in the referendum:
    Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union

    Leave 44%
    Remain 42%

    Are people thinking that £100 is a cheap price?

  18. @Alun

    My point was that you could campaign for electoral change while staying in the Union and SNP are not perhaps ideally suited to this, on account of wanting to leave the Union.

    One might congratulate you for dodging the currency question though!!

  19. @Alun

    Lol, yes it’s other peeps fault you have a convenient blindspot over TTIP, makes perfect sense!!

  20. The polls may have moved cos of lies about immigration.
    It makes me depressed.

  21. “Oh don’t worry, we know they wouldn’t be on a hair trigger right this, not with oil prices in the toilet!!”

    Technically, this is called a ‘hair shirt trigger’.

  22. @Alun

    I mean, peeps like Syzygy aren’t hyperbolic about TTIP. If they were, you can bet the likes of ToH and Colin would be on it. Even Robert Newark sees issues with it.

    And many on the left are keeping quiet cos they know it has issues but they don’t wanna undermine a Remain vote.

    Lots of nonsense was talked about indyref too, but that didn’t stop you taking a position on it.

    It’s very important, corporates overriding elected governments, and you need to be up on this stuff to advise on the doorstep!!

    Don’t ignore summat important like wot SNP did with oil prices!!

  23. @Mark W

    It’s to be expected. For the first time in my life I have people coming up to me to complain about immigration. Complete strangers sometimes.

    Also, people have started asking me where I’m from. I think my partner may have thought I was over-egging it, till on the weekend, she was with me when a security guard actually followed me out of a shop just to ask where I’m from…

    I don’t think it’s all about immigration though. People seem to behaving more trivially in other ways, amongst each other. To me it’s also a consequence of increasing insecurity, and detachment from extended family, roots etc., fast pace of change, too much info., Increasing uncertainty etc.

  24. Trivially = tribally

  25. Oh, and increasing expectations on peeps, less happy with their lot. Which can be a positive thing, but there is this hangover from the aristocracy whereby some peeps not only want to have it all but additionally sans working for it…

  26. @Jonathan Stuart-Brown.

    In terms of your “Celtic Fringe” unknowns I’d bet on Welsh and Irish Nats voting remain by respectively comfortable and large majorities – however in terms of UK voting population they are both very small groups; Scot Nat voters also presumably comfortably pro-Remain but not possibly by as much as their own propaganda might suggest. New Welsh EU poll tomorrow btw; last few have shown tiny remain leads; given that this poll accompanied a VI poll which was good news for PC for devolved elections and Lab for UK ones we may see a slightly bigger Remain vote

    Your suppositions about the implicaitons of turnout are surely right.

    One issue I’m not sure of is whether any of the polls are able to factor in overseas postal voting; this of course is likely to include very highly motivated Remainers but I have no feel for how many

  27. NEILJ
    Not seeking to convince you. Indeed urging others to show that my turnout projection is wrong. BTW I think if people were compelled to vote YES or NO on TV control, then polls are accurate but that as people are not, that many are not registered or bothered enough to leave armchair (see Europoll turnout 2014) that the polls plus the UKIP 4 million (2014, 2015) meaning Leave only need 4 million Tories and only 4 million Old Labour = well worth a bet whatever the odds. But before a bet, you try to get as much inside info as possible. Higher turnout is gamechanger.

  28. Anyway to get back to polling, the YouGov poll that there was a fuss about this morning was the monthly one they have been doing for Good Morning Britain, which have tended to get less attention than their regular one for the Times (probably out of media snobbery):


    Remain 41% (-1)

    Leave 45% (+5)

    Would not vote 4% (-2)

    Don’t know 11% (-2)

    Fieldwork is 1-3 Jun, but changes are from previous GMB poll f/w 4-6 May, so not necessarily indicative of a recent change. The GMB samples are for two day and so double size – around 3500. Unlike other YouGov polls these figures incorporate LTV calculations, so they’re not comparable with other YouGovs.

    These GMB polls have been running with a set of questions about How much do you trust the following people in regards to the current debate over Britain’s membership of the European Union?
    and these do show how badly Cameron is doing at -53, down from -43 in April. Corbyn does better (-36 from -25)[1] but with a similar drop. Johnson (-26 from -27) and Farage (-39 from -35) have only held their positions as has Sturgeon (-33 from -34), though arguably that’s impressive for a GB poll. So Cameron is clearly failing and falling, but there doesn’t look like an alternative for Remain.

    [1] Many of those polled will have been so before his recent EU speech, so this could change. Unfortunately for him, the media and his opponents in Labour seem more concerned with using the topic to attack him rather than win the referendum.

  29. @Alec

    I stand corrected on the hair shirt thing.

    P.s. apparently they’ve now figured out using FLOATING offshore wind turbines, reducing costs and letting them be used in deeper waters. At least a bit of a gamechanger?

  30. Interestingly from that Good morning Britain poll

    Immigration as the main concern over how they’ll vote in the EU ref is only in third place. Economy is second, and number one is striking the right balance between Britain’s right to act independently and degree of cooperation with other countries.

    Although it’s narrowing. Also, being a hundred quid a year better off stagimg in the EU saw a nine point lead for Remain a couple of months ago. That has now been wiped out.

  31. “Lol, yes it’s other peeps fault you have a convenient blindspot over TTIP”

    I don’t have a blindspot, I am merely too short of time to tackle every single thing in the whole realm of politics. I’m human and I need to sleep. I’m also not someone with independent means. That means I have to work so I can eat. As it is, I’ve read a fair amount about TTIP and nothing has moved me to come down in favour or against it. Sometimes that does happen. One solution is to keep researching and keep reading. But for the time poor, there comes a point where you have to say that coming to a final position on it is too much work.
    I sense you are trying to provoke me into taking a stance, but I won’t. That’s not to say I don’t see potential problems with TTIP (I do), but I also see potential benefits. Can you possibly accept that I do not have a position on this? Or will you continue to badger me to take an artificial stance?

    “Lots of nonsense was talked about indyref too, but that didn’t stop you taking a position on it.”
    There’s always nonsense in any campaign. I am quite aware that people on every side talk nonsense. But just because there are idiots on both sides, doesn’t stop me taking a position.
    I wasn’t involved in the indyref campaign. I didn’t join the SNP until after it, and I did no campaigning for anything before the 2015 WM election. I saw nonsense from Yes and No campaigners, just as I see nonsense from all political parties. I dare say that sometimes even you descend into nonsense. None of us are perfect. But your recent comment about shifting from “abstain” to “not voting” did make me laugh.

  32. I am genuinely baffled as to why Celtic “nationalist” parties want to join the EU.
    Scotland, for example, would be about 1% of the EU on population or GDP bases – very like Slovakia. Wales about 3/5 of that, N.Ireland 2/5.
    There would it seems be about twice as many MEPs. Slovakia has 13.

  33. @Alun

    Nope, your attempt to try and characterise me as trying to provoke you into taking a stance is waaaaaaaaaay off base.

    If anything it’s doing pretty much the opposite. Revealing the classic Indy peeps determination to AVOID much that undermines their case, whether oil prices, currency; TTIP’s impact on democracy is sidelined despite your supposed concern with democracy, and the democratic deficit in EU is to be celebrated while pilloried in the UK.

  34. @Dave

    Well apparently there aren’t enough hours in the day for them to consider the case against the EU, they only have time for the case FOR the EU.

    It”s the opposite with the UK union though. No one knows why…

  35. Anthony

    I have two comments in moderation – Cannot figure out why without resorting to conspiracy theories!

  36. WB
    Sometimes it’s because an innocent word contains another – e.g. if you mis-spelt ‘parsley’ it might trigger automod.

  37. @ Carfew

    ‘I mean, peeps like Syzygy aren’t hyperbolic about TTIP. If they were, you can bet the likes of ToH and Colin would be on it. Even Robert Newark sees issues with it.’

    You are so right … and the existence of those ‘gentle’men are a constant reminder to avoid hyperbole.

  38. @ Pete B

    So if you are a resident of Farsley, you’re moderated?

    Yeah………. I can understand that happening.

  39. I’m amazed it doesn’t trigger it even when you spell it correctly, automod I s that capricious…

  40. “You are so right … and the existence of those ‘gentle’men are a constant reminder to avoid hyperbole.”


    Indeed, and it also reminds me it’s French Week at Lidl!! And we had Limoncello at the weekend, Ken would be proud. No allotment yet, but they have some in my local park just up the road so I’m wondering..

  41. “Revealing the classic Indy peeps determination to…”

    You’re quizzing me on currency to reveal something about the generalised opinion with the independecne movement? Well, it’s wonderful to have been elevated to the position of spokesperson for a whole movement, but I’m not quite sure I’ve earned it.

    If you want a better picture of how others feel, I can tell you. Most SNP folk I’ve met are viscerally opposed to TTIP. I was speaking purely about my own feelings. I think their judgement is premature in that instance, but it seems to chime with your more thoroughly researched position, so I can only surmise that they and you are correct, and I am not yet correct.

    As for currency, I tried to give a sense that I don’t think people are decided whether they’d like an indyScot to have its own currency or the Euro, nor what flexibility is available in that matter. I don’t think there’s widespread desire to go for the same UK-pound option as last time, but I’ll be honest and say it’s not a hot topic of conversation, so I might be misrepresenting their views.

  42. @Alun

    “You’re quizzing me on currency to reveal something about the generalised opinion with the independecne movement? Well, it’s wonderful to have been elevated to the position of spokesperson for a whole movement, but I’m not quite sure I’ve earned it.”


    No, that’s not what I’m doing, you’re bigging yourself up quite a bit there. I wasn’t setting you up as a representative, was just noting that you fit into the pattern of others who avoid such issues.

    If you are concerned about democracy as you seem to be, and are in the position of advocating whether to stay in EU, prolly a good idea to consider democratic implications of TTIP.

    I’ll throw you a lifeline cos I’m nice like that and point out that since some of this TTIP stuff has been conducted in secret, not entirely your fault not to be aware of democratic issues. But you are now!! Check up on the dispute resolution thingy for starters if you like. Disturbing stuff…

    Whether people as a whole are undecided on the currency is one thing, an SNP supporter’s position on it is summat else.

    I can see the attraction of speculating on everyone else’s position on the currency rather than revealing your own position though!!

  43. @ Dave; for the Celtic Nationalist parties it’s mostly about a political counter balance to Westminster plus all three countries have had quite high levels of EU funding ( NI and Wales still do) that wouldn’t have come, certainly in our case, from London. I’m not to be entirely honest that either Westminster or Brussels have been especially unresponsive when the right buttons have been pushed (Whitehall on the other hand……) but it’s always useful to have two power centres to manoeuvre between…..

  44. @CinC
    ” it’s always useful to have two power centres to manoeuvre between…..”
    But they want to leave the UK … ?

  45. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Migration_and_migrant_population_statistics

    No wonder the UK populace are so much more worried by EU Migration than other member countries, it’s because over 40% of them between 2013 – 14 have come here! That’s nearly double of the closest country Germany.

    Of these, 41.2 % took up residence and worked in the United Kingdom, 21.6 % in Germany, 7.7 % in Belgium, 4.5 % in Austria and Spain, 4% in France 3.6% in Ireland, 2.9% in Sweden & 2.6% in Denmark.

    On paper then it is clear that eleven EU countries should be a better financial draw to migrants from poorer EU Countries than the UK is because they pay higher wages and salaries.

    The game changer for the UK is social security, benefits attracting poor migrants are housing benefit and child benefit, and we have the NHS,

    The other driver is Tax which is averaged in the UK at 26.8% where other EU countries such as Germany it is 45.1% !

  46. 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.

    So it’s claimed, but dunno how true it is. If it IS true to some significant extent, our presence as a sink of sorts makes free movement quite attractive to other EU countries who get to cherry pick those who fit the profile of jobs needing filling before moving the rest on.

  47. Roger Mexico

    “Oh I wasn’t suggesting that you were advocating either side – just pointing out that the Leave side has at least as much explaining to do over immigration as the ‘Remainers’ do.”

    I was just pointing out that voters don’t seem to see it that way at the moment judging by the movement in the polls.

  48. @Thoughtful

    The English language also plays a part. Pretty much everyone in the EU learns English as a second language. How many learn say Flemish? It’s basically harder work to try to emigrate to Flanders than to the UK because you have to invest in learning a new language from scratch.

  49. @ToH

    It’s falling on deaf ears tho’ innit?

    Remainers are going “OMG, can’t you see? If we leave we may get free movement forced on us if we want the same kinda trade deals as in the EU!!!”

    And they can’t seem to get the Leavers’ argument that “We know!! We know we might not have the same trade deal, and that’s potentially another good thing about it!! Avoiding some of this TTIP nonsense for a start!!”

    “And what’s the point of this EU trade if peeps’ wages flatline while housing costs go up due to immigration? It’s great for the one per cent, but for others?”

  50. “The English language also plays a part. Pretty much everyone in the EU learns English as a second language. How many learn say Flemish? It’s basically harder work to try to emigrate to Flanders than to the UK because you have to invest in learning a new language from scratch.”


    This is also a reason why easier to offshore our business since many English speakers abroad. Summat Maggie may not have thought of at the time (I r maybe she did?…)

    Anyway, solution’s obvious: let’s start speaking a different language then. Maybe Scottish…

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