Almost a month on from the referendum campaign I’ve had chance to sit down and collect my thoughts about how the polls performed. This isn’t necessarily a post about what went wrong since, as I wrote on the weekend after the referendum, for many pollsters nothing at all went wrong. Companies like TNS and Opinium got the referendum resolutely right, and many polls painted a consistently tight race between Remain and Leave. However some did less well and in the context of last year’s polling failure there is plenty we can learn about what methodology approaches adopted by the pollsters did and did not work for the referendum.

Mode effects

The most obvious contrast in the campaign was between telephone and online polls, and this contributed to the surprise over the result. Telephone and online polls told very different stories – if one paid more attention to telephone polls then Remain appeared to have a robust lead (and many in the media did, having bought into a “phone polls are more accurate” narrative that turned out to be wholly wrong). If one had paid more attention to online polls the race would have appeared consistently neck-and-neck. If one made the – perfectly reasonable – assumption that the actual result would be somewhere in between phone and online, one would still have ended up expecting a Remain victory.

While there was a lot of debate about whether phone or online was more likely to be correct during the campaign, there was relatively little to go on. Pat Sturgis and Will Jennings of the BPC inquiry team concluded that the true position was probably in between phone and online, perhaps a little closer to online, by comparing the results of the 2015 BES face-to-face data to the polls conducted at the time. Matt Singh and James Kanagasooriam wrote a paper called Polls Apart that concluded the result was probably closer to the telephone polls because they were closer to the socially liberal results in the BES data (as issue I’ll return to later). A paper by John Curtice could only conclude that the real result was likely somewhere in between online and telephone, given that at the general election the true level of UKIP support was between phone and online polls. During the campaign there was also a NatCen mixed-mode survey based on recontacting respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey, which found a result somewhere in between online and telephone.

In fact the final result was not somewhere in between telephone and online at all. Online was closer to the final result, and far from being in between the actual result was more Leave than all of them.

As ever, the actual picture was not quite as simple as this and there was significant variation within modes. The final online polls from TNS and Opinium had Leave ahead, but Populus’s final poll was conducted online and had a ten point lead for Remain. The final telephone polls from ComRes and MORI showed large leads for Remain, but Survation’s final poll phone poll showed a much smaller Remain lead. ICM’s telephone and online polls had been showing identical leads, but ceased publication several weeks before the result. On average, however, online polls were closer to the result than telephone polls.

The referendum should perhaps also provoke a little caution about probability studies like the face-to-face BES. These are hugely valuable surveys, done to the highest possible standards… but nothing is perfect, and they can be wrong. We cannot tell what a probability poll conducted immediately before the referendum would have shown, but if it had been somewhere between online and phone – as the earlier BES and NatCen data were – then it would also have been wrong.

People who are easy or difficult to reach by phone

Many of the pieces looking of the mode effects in the EU polling looked at the differences between people who responded quickly and slowly to polls. The BPC inquiry into the General Election polls analysed the samples from the post-election BES/BSA face-to-face polls and showed how people who responded to the face-to-face surveys on the first contact were skewed towards Labour voters, only after including those respondents who took two or three attempts to contact did the polls correctly show the Conservatives in the lead. The inquiry team used this as an example of how quota sampling could fail, rather than evidence of actual biases which affected the polls in 2015, but the same approach has become more widely used in analysis of polling failure. Matt Singh and James Kanagasooriam’s paper in particular focused on how slow respondents to the BES were also likely to be more socially liberal and concluded, therefore, that online polls were likely to be have too many socially conservative people.

Taking people who are reached on the first contact attempt in a face-to-face poll seems like a plausible proxy for people who might be contacted by a telephone poll that doesn’t have time to ring back people who it fails to contact on the first attempt. Putting aside the growing importance of sampling mobile phones, landline surveys and face-to-face surveys do both depend on the interviewee being at home at a civilised time and willing to take part. It’s more questionable why it should be a suitable proxy for the sort of person willing to join an online panel and take part in online surveys that can be done on any internet device at any old time.

As the referendum campaign continued there were more studies that broke down people’s EU referendum voting intention by how difficult they were to interview. NatCen’s mixed-mode survey in May to June found the respondents that it took longer to contact tended to be more leave (as well as being less educated, and more likely to say don’t know). BMG’s final poll was conducted by telephone, but used a 6 day fieldwork period to allow multiple attempts to call-back respondents. Their analysis painted a mixed picture – people contacted on the first call were fairly evenly split between Remain and Leave (51% Remain), people on the second call were strongly Remain (57% Remain), but people on later calls were more Leave (49% Remain).

Ultimately, the evidence on hard-to-reach people ended up being far more mixed than initially assumed. While the BES found hard-to-reach people were more pro-EU, the NatCen survey’s hardest to reach people were more pro-Leave, and BMG found a mixed pattern. This also suggests that one suggested solution to make telephone sampling better – taking more time to make more call-backs to those people who don’t answer the first call – is not necessarily a guaranteed solution. ORB and BMG both highlighted their decision to spend longer over their fieldwork in the hope of producing better samples, both taking six days rather than the typical two or three. Neither were obviously more accurate than phone pollsters with shorter fieldwork periods.

Education weights

During the campaign YouGov wrote a piece raising questions about whether some polls had too many graduates. Level of educational qualifications correlated with how likely people were to support to EU membership (graduates were more pro-EU, people with no qualification more pro-Leave, even after controlling for age) so this did have the potential to skew figures.

The actual proportion of “graduates” in Britain depends on definitions (the common NVQ Level 4+ categorisation in the census includes some people with higher education qualifications below degree-level), but depending on how you define it and whether or not you include HE qualifications below degree level the figure is around 27% to 35%. In the Populus polling produced for Polls Apart 47% of people had university level qualifications, suggesting polls conducted by telephone could be seriously over-representing graduates.

Ipsos MORI identified the same issue with too many graduates in their samples and added education quotas and weights during the campaign (this reduced the Remain lead in their polls by about 3-4 points, so while their final poll still showed a large Remain lead, it would have been more wrong without education weighting). ICM, however, tested education weights on their telephone polls and found it made little difference, while education breaks in ComRes’s final poll suggest they had about the right proportion of graduates in their sample anyway.

This doesn’t entirely put the issue of education to bed. Data on the educational make-up of samples is spotty, and the overall proportion of graduates in the sample is not the end of the story – because there is a strong correlation between education and age, just looking at overall education levels isn’t enough. There need to be enough poorly qualified people in younger age groups, not just among older generations where it is commonplace.

The addition of education weights appears to have helped some pollsters, but it clearly depends on the state of the sample to begin with. MORI controlled for education, but still over-represented Remain. ComRes had about the right proportion of graduates to begin with, but still got it wrong. Getting the correct proportion of graduates does appear to have been an issue for some companies, and dealing with it helped some companies, but alone it cannot explain why some pollsters performed badly.

Attitudinal weights

Another change introduced by some companies during the campaign was weighting by attitudes towards immigration and national identity (whether people considered themselves to be British or English). Like education, both these attitudes were correlated with EU referendum voting intention. Where they differ from education is that there are official statistics on the qualifications held by the British population, but there are no official stats on national identity or attitudes towards immigration. Attitudes may also be more liable to change than qualifications.

Three companies adopted attitudinal weights during the campaign, all of them online. Two of these used the same BES questions on racial equality and national identity from the BES face-to-face survey that were discussed in Polls Apart… but with different levels of success. Opinium, who were the joint most-accurate pollster, weighted people’s attitudes to racial equality and national identity to a point half-way between the BES findings and their own findings (presumably on the assumption that half the difference was sample, half interviewer effect). According to Opinium this increased the relative position of remain by about 5 points when introduced. Populus weighted by the same BES questions on attitudes to race and people’s national identity, but in their case used the actual BES figures – presumably giving them a sample that was significantly more socially liberal than Opinium’s. Populus ended up showing the largest Remain lead.

It’s clear from Opinium and Populus that these social attitudes were correlated with EU referendum vote and including attitudinal weighting variables did make a substantial difference. Exactly what to weight them to is a different question though – Populus and Opinium weighted the same variable to very different targets, and got very different results. Given the sensitivity of questions about racism we cannot be sure whether people answer these questions differently by phone, online or face-to-face, nor whether face-to-face probability samples have their own biases, but choosing what targets to use for any attitudinal weighting is obviously a difficult problem.

While it may have been a success for Opinium, attitudinal weighting is unlikely to have improved matters for other online polls – online polls generally produce social attitudes that are more conservative than suggested by the BES/BSA face-to-face surveys, so weighting them towards the BES/BSA data would probably only have served to push the results further towards Remain and make them even less accurate. On the other hand, for telephone polls there could be potential for attitudinal weighting to make samples less socially liberal.

Turnout models

There was a broad consensus that turnout was going to be a critical factor at the referendum, but pollsters took different approaches towards it. These varied from a traditional approach of basing turnout weights purely on respondent’s self-assessment of their likelihood to vote, models that also incorporated how often people had voted in the past or their interest in the subject, through to a models that were based on the socio-economic characteristics of respondents, modelling people’s likelihood to vote based on their age and social class.

In the case of the EU referendum Leave voters generally said they were more likely to vote than Remain voters, so traditional turnout models were more likely to favour Leave. People who didn’t vote at previous elections leant towards Leave, so models that incorporated past voting behaviour were a little more favourable towards Remain. Demographic based models were more complicated, as older people were more likely to vote and more leave, but middle class and educated people were more likely to vote and more remain. On balance models based on socio-economic factors tended to favour Remain.

The clearest example is Natcen’s mixed mode survey, which explictly modelled the two different approaches. Their raw results without turnout modelling would have been REMAIN 52.3%, LEAVE 47.7%. Modelling turnout based on self-reported likelihood to vote would have made the results slightly more “leave” – REMAIN 51.6%, LEAVE 48.4%. Modelling the results based on socio-demographic factors (which is what NatCen chose to do in the end) resulted in topline figures of REMAIN 53.2%, LEAVE 46.8%.

In the event ComRes & Populus chose to use methods based on socio-economic factors, YouGov & MORI used methods combining self-assessed likelihood and past voting behaviour (and in the case of MORI, interest in the referendum), Survation & ORB a traditional approach based just on self-assessed likelihood to vote. TNS didn’t use any turnout modelling in their final poll.

In almost every case the adjustments for turnout made the polls less accurate, moving the final figures towards Remain. For the four companies who used more sophisticated turnout models, it looks as if a traditional approach of relying on self-reported likelihood to vote would have been more accurate. An unusual case was TNS’s final poll, which did not use a turnout model at all, but did include data on what their figures would have been if they had. Using a model based on people’s own estimate of their likelihood to vote, past vote and age (but not social class) TNS would have shown figures of 54% Leave, 46% Remain – less accurate than their final call poll, but with an error in the opposite direction to most other polls.

In summary, it looks as though attempts to improve turnout modelling since the general election have not improved matters – if anything the opposite was the case. The risk of basing turnout models on past voting behaviour at elections or the demographic patterns of turnout at past elections has always been what would happen if patterns of turnout changed. It’s true middle class people normally vote more than working class people, older people normally vote more than younger people. But how much more, and how much does that vary from election to election? If you build a model that assumes the same levels of differential turnout between demographic groups as the previous election then it risks going horribly wrong if levels of turnout are different… and in the EU ref it looks as if they were. In their post-referendum statement Populus have been pretty robust in rejecting the whole idea – “turnout patterns are so different that a demographically based propensity-to-vote model is unlikely ever to produce an accurate picture of turnout other than by sheer luck.”

That may be a little harsh, it would probably be a wrong turn if pollsters stopped looking for more sophisticated turnout models than just asking people, and past voting behaviour and demographic considerations may be part of that. It may be that turnout models that are based on past behaviour at general elections is more successful in modelling general election turnout than that for referendums. Thus far, however, innovations in turnout modelling don’t appear to have been particularly successful.

Reallocation of don’t knows

During the campaign Steve Fisher and Alan Renwick wrote an interesting piece about how most referendum polls in the past have underestimated support for the status quo, presumably because of late swing or don’t knows breaking for remain. Pollsters were conscious of this and rather than just ignore don’t knows in their final polls, the majority of pollsters attempted to model how don’t knows would vote. This went from simple squeeze questions, which way do don’t knows think they’ll end up voting, are they leaning towards or suchlike (TNS, MORI and YouGov), to projecting how don’t knows will vote based upon their answers to other questions. ComRes had a squeeze question and estimated how don’t knows would vote based on how people thought Brexit would effect the economy, Populus on how risky don’t knows thought Brexit was. ORB just split don’t knows 3 to 1 in favour of Remain.

In every case these adjustments helped remain, and in every case this made things less accurate. Polls that made estimates about how don’t knows would vote ended up more wrong than polls that just asked people how they might end up voting, but this is probably co-incidence, both approaches had a similar sort of effect. This is not to say they were necessarily wrong – it’s possible that don’t knows did break in favour of remain, and that that while the reallocation of don’t knows made polls less accurate, it was because it was adding a swing to data that was already wrong to begin with. Nevertheless, it suggests pollsters should be careful about assuming too much about don’t knows – for general elections at least such decisions can be based more firmly upon how don’t knows have split at past general elections, where hopefully more robust models can be developed.

So what we can learn?

Pollsters don’t get many opportunities to compare polling results against actual election results, so every one is valuable – especially when companies are still attempting to address the 2015 polling failure. On the other hand, we need to be careful about reading too much into a single poll that’s not necessarily comparable to a general election. All those final polls were subject to the ordinary margins of error and there are different challenges to polling a general election and a referendum.

Equally, we shouldn’t automatically assume that anything that would have made the polls a little more Leave is necessarily correct, anything that made polling figures more Remain is necessarily wrong – everything you do to a poll interacts with everything else, and taking each item in isolation can be misleading. The list of things above is by no means exhaustive either – my own view remains that the core problem with polls is that they tend to be done by people who are too interested and aware of politics, and the way to solve polling failure is to find ways of recruiting less political people, quota-ing and weighting by levels of political interest. We found that people with low political interest were more likely to support Brexit, but there is very little other information on political awareness and interest from other polling, so I can’t explore to what extent that was responsible for any errors in the wider polls.

With that said, what can we conclude?

  • Phone polls appeared to face substantially greater problems in obtaining a representative sample than online polls. While there was variation within modes, with some online polls doing better than others, some phone polls doing worse than others, on average online outperformed phone. The probability based samples from the BES and the NatCen mixed-mode experiment suggested a position somewhere between online and telephone, so while we cannot tell what they would have shown, we should not assume they would have been any better.
  • Longer fieldwork times for telephone polls are not necessarily the solution. The various analyses of how people who took several attempts to contact differed from those who were contacted on the first attempt were not consistent, and the companies who took longer over their fieldwork were no more accurate than those with shorter periods.
  • Some polls did contain too many graduates and correcting for that did appear to help, but it was not a problem that affected all companies and would not alone have solved the problem. Some companies weighted by education or had the correct proportion of graduates, but still got it wrong.
  • Attitudinal weights had a mixed record. The only company to weight attitudes to the BES figures overstated Remain significantly, but Opinium had more success at weighting them to a halfway point. Weighting by social attitudes faces problems in determining weighting targets and is unlikely to have made other online polls more Leave, but could be a consideration for telephone polls that may have had samples that were too socially liberal.
  • Turnout models that were based on the patterns of turnout at the last election and whether people voted at the last election performed badly and consistently made the results less accurate – presumably because of the unexpectedly high turnout, particular among more working class areas. Perhaps there is potential for such models to work in the future and at general elections, but so far they don’t appear successful.

892 Responses to “What we can learn from the referendum polling”

1 2 3 4 5 18

    I will worry about my neck thanks, you just polish up your guilt ridden left wing conscience.

  2. NEIL A

    No problem :-)

  3. In that YG Poll 42% of Lab’s 2015 Vote has gone to other parties or DK

  4. Apologies to all concerned for bringing up the verboten topic, I didn’t realise it couldn’t be discussed at all, I thought it was just the three-letter acronym that was banned.

    @AW, your board, your rules, no problem with that.

  5. COLIN

    In the same poll it has Labour behind the Tories in every region of England except the North East and the Tories are ahead of Labour in Scotland.

    The Tories are just in front of Labour in London. That really has to be quite concerning for the metro Labour party in London.

  6. I would really love to know what effect , if any, Polls like this have on Corbyn support among LP Members.

    In your defence David, I think it was impossible to view the item you refer to, without saying “something must be done”.

  8. Angela Eagles constituency party has been suspended

  9. ALLAN

    The “new swarm” of LP members hold its future in the balance-and to some extent the conduct of Parliamentary business.

    It isn’t good for the country-or the Conservative Party to face an emasculated opposition front bench with sullen backbenchers behind it.

    I am sorry to say that the temptation for a bit of Flashman-or Flashwoman! in these circumstances -seems ever present.

  10. Why has YouGov suddenly decide to publish Crossbreaks? Surely the crossbreak is not representative?

  11. @Roly

    It’s like you’re discussing this with an imaginary friend!! I haven’t expressed what I feel about it, conscience etc., was just ensuring it’s not just the customary one-sided account. Have a good afternoon Roly!!

  12. MBruno,

    The other difficulty you do not mention with non-membership of the single market is the “cost of disentanglement” which so far seems to be unquantified..

    The most obvious cost so far is having to hire a large number of trade negotiators, and to get the best deals with other countries we will have to head-hunt people already in well-paid jobs. They will come with numerous support staff and no doubt plush offices in central London..

    Then there is the fact that UK law, particularly in employment, environmental and corporate areas, very often includes direct reference to EU law since our law is subservient in many cases. This has taken over 40 years to set up, and the expertise to sort this out in a much shorter time frame is I suspect limited. It may be that we can simply leave this in place indefinitely, but whenever we want to introduce something new it will be a big job…

    Then there will be the costs to industry of hiring people to trade with European countries without the customs union and all that goes with it. If you want to trade with Europe, being inside the customs union is a big advantage which is why companies like Nissan have set up in the UK.

    If either government or industry try to short change on these costs, we will be taken to the cleaners just like the NHS has been on so many heaven-forsaken PFI initiatives…

  13. It is too large to make inferences based on polls as we don’t know where voting intentions will stabilize in the long run, especially if we have a post-Brexit recession or rising unemployment. In any case though, the YouGov poll seems to give some support to the prediction that Brexit and, especially Theresa May going for “hard Brexit”, i.e. a free trade deal rather than single market membership, would lead to a collapse in the UKIP vote to the benefit of the Tories.

    I was discussing this with you. And, the hoary old favourite about Lord K has to come up, what next, the bombing of Dresden I guess. Trying to get your European brothers of off the hook, by saying “the Brits did it first”, when it comes to mass murder just does not wash. Good Afternoon to you.

  15. Colin

    It depends on who the party members believe is responsible, you know what I think. It also depends on how members think things will pan out after the leadership election, will the MPs rally round corbyn if he wins? There is a good argument to voting for Smith just to stop the destruction, giving in to blackmail is tempting but british bloody mindedness is in play as well. Id say that voting for Smith might be the best for the party in the short term but voting for corbyn is best for the country

  16. Sorru, I meant “it is too EARLY to make inferences based on polls”.

  17. COLIN

    I agree. I watched part of the Trident debate when ol Corby was on his feet and it was cringing to watch that most of the attacks came from behind him.

    For parliament to function properly or in the interests of the country it needs a fully functional opposition where they can shadow every government minister so policy decisions can be properly Scrutinised.

    The way things are within Labour the SNP look and act more in the way of the official opposition than Labour.

    “I am sorry to say that the temptation for a bit of Flashman-or Flashwoman! in these circumstances -seems ever present.

    I’m not sure I would had wanted to see Angela Eagle flash ;-) but Labour do need someone who can bring the party back together and if it means being a bit of a iron fist then so be it.

    If ol Corby wins the leadership the only options for Labour are either to unite behind him or split.

  18. @neil A – I took more or less the exact opposite lesson from Chilcot. The allies placed very great store in the account of one unreliable (as it turned out) informant.”

    I don’t think we differ on this. The critical point was that too much emphasis was placed on one didgy informat precisely because there weren’t enough agents on the ground to provide balancing views.

    One other point – you came dangerously close to smearing my good name, with the various criminal scenarios you came up with.

    For the avoidance of doubt – I _never_ shop at Ikea!

    I’ in favour of Winchester ..I live 3 miles east of Winchester and it’s also my constituency..When do we start proceedings for moving power from Westminster to Winchester’s magnificent Guildhall?

    Thanks. I thought you’d approve, especially because the Watercress line would have to be completely re-opened and the A31 fully dualled. City centre parking would need a re-think, too.

  20. @Roly

    No, you’re not discussing it with me. You are stringing it out, discussing it with some other person who wants to get Europeans off the hook, when I did no such thing, and now you’re trying to switch it to Dresden with whoever it is!!

  21. “If ol Corby wins the leadership the only options for Labour are either to unite behind him or split.”


    Or to carry on rancorously…


    “Thanks. I thought you’d approve, especially because the Watercress line would have to be completely re-opened and the A31 fully dualled. City center parking would need a re-think, too”

    Ha!…. exactly what I was thinking. :-)


    “Or to carry on rancorously”

    Surely that can’t be an option?

  23. @ Colin

    Yes, it was a very non-parliamentary scene, but wouldn’t be quite as unusual in Parliaments where they sit in a horseshoe shaped arrangement.

    Well, it will be quite interesting (though maybe not so much). Reelection of 6 seats of the NEC, the campaign, the leadership election.

    To be honest, the two no change in polls were more surprising than this one. The probl m is the no-solution. Judging from the churn (OK, one poll), labour votes seem to leak to the right (and DK). So, if it is the case, then a a Smith election should show churn to the Greens (and DK) unless he can regain some of the lost votes to the right. A Corbyn election raises the administrative problem (this is why the NEC election could be so important).

    But, yes, all factions are out now to cause damage. It is perhaps better for Labour – and British/English politics.

  24. If Corbyn wins again I suspect the PLP will elect its own leader. – who will then become Leader of the Opposition.



    I’ve been meaning to ask you-your name here prompts me to ask-do you by any chance have relatives in Cornwall.??

  26. LAZSLO

    It isn’t a question of how the Official Opposition is seated.

    It is a question of how , or, as in this case; if, it functions as such.

  27. Colin

    Im not sure how you get cornwall from Cambridge Rachel, but no, I don’t have any connection with cornwall

  28. ANDREW111

    Excellent post re “cost of disentanglement”.

    With all three Chevening Brexiteers already winning friends & influencing people internationally, they’re no doubt “on the case”.

  29. Graham,

    Yes, as far as I know it is purely convention that says that political parties exist in the House of Commons… The majority of Labour MPs can elect a leader other than Corbyn in the House of Commons and there is nothing the membership can do except deselect them and wait for a GE.

    I think Parliamentary custom would defer to the second largest block of MPs and their leader and Corbyn might well find himself behind the SNP in the pecking order, as the Lib Dems did after 2015….

  30. CR
    ‘ Id say that voting for Smith might be the best for the party in the short term but voting for corbyn is best for the country’

    Re-electing Corbyn is likely to mean that Labour emerges from the next election with fewer MPs than at any time since World War 2. Is that best for the country?

  31. “Surely that can’t be an option?”


    It seems to be the favoured option. Even in the days of Blair and Brown…

  32. Graham

    You can say that but do you have evidence to back that up? Do you have evidence that the result would be different with another leader. Also ukip got us out of Europe with only one MP because they moved the terms of the debate. Corbyn has already moved the terms of the debate within the Labour party and considering the pitches made by conservative leadership contenders also within that party. I don’t care who’s in govt, I care about the policies they pursue

  33. I think the best option for the plotter is to elect their own leader. The plotters would not have to resign they would still be in the Labour Party. The imagine Speaker wouldn’t want to be caught in controversy so would accept that the group of 150+ is the official opposition.

    Of course Corbies Labour might be bigger than SNP so they become 3rd party in commons.

    There must be a reason this can’t happen but it seems it could….

  34. @Colin – no – you don’t get it! That YG poll showing a massive Con lead and a haemorraging of Labour support is just another MSM plot!.

  35. ‘ The majority of Labour MPs can elect a leader other than Corbyn in the House of Commons and there is nothing the membership can do except deselect them and wait for a GE.’

    That’s the rub… what happens in 2020? In fact, Harold Wilson’s right hand man Joe Haines, suggested this a few months ago. There was a moment a few weeks back, when I thought that the shadow, shadow cabinet would do this. It was when Yvette announced that she was self-appointing herself to take over the Brexit negotiations but then it fizzled out and I’ve heard nothing more. Perhaps, there was insufficient support or it has just been put on hold.

    However, it requires the participating MPs to contemplate what happens in the next GE. Do they find other employment, or try and stand as independents against a Labour Candidate, without the local election machine behind them. It’s fine in the short term but a big risk for those who want a parliamentary career.

  36. On the polling

    “Turnout models that were based on the patterns of turnout at the last election and whether people voted at the last election performed badly and consistently made the results less accurate – presumably because of the unexpectedly high turnout, particular among more working class areas.”

    It’s obvious what the (or at least part of the) problem is but because the TV media won’t report it there’s confusion among people who don’t know.

    Over the last 16 years a segment of the population has been hammered to the point where they stopped voting because the political class is effectively identical on the points critical to the hammering.

    1) adding millions of people while making **no** provision for the extra numbers meant the people on the bottom of the totem pole got squeezed out of housing

    2) what happens if you have a social housing safety net based on points and the average number of children varies between groups?

    3) what happens when you massively increase the ratio of young males to young females in a previously balanced area?

    If the TV media told the truth the polling problem would be obvious.


    So for the sake of argument (and using numbers just to illustrate the point) say the “natural” turnout levels middle class vs working class was 70% vs 50% but currently it’s more 70% vs 30% in certain areas then if/when that hidden segment votes you’ll get surprises.

  37. That poll with the Tories on 40% is pretty dramatic. Of course, it’s a one-off, but it could be the first sign of the public getting fed up with Labour’s shambolic performance lately.

    Interesting also, that UKIP fell by even more than Labour, though the 20% in the last YG poll was at the top end of UKIP VI from anyone. They might be beginning to lose impetus now that the referendum’s over and Nige has gone.

  38. @ Cooper2802

    “The plotters would not have to resign they would still be in the Labour Party.”

    In such a situation they would almost certainly be expelled from the LP, so they wouldn’t be in the LP.

    But of course Bercow could do what he wants – notionally MPs represent their constituencies, so it’s fine (even if their party name was next to their name. I can’t recall it, but I think it was yougov that had a poll in which a large proportion of people didn’t know who their MPs were, but they knew the party).

    I really think that would cause a constitutional problem if 100+ MPs tried to change horses without a by-election.

  39. Allan Christie

    CARFREW beat me to it. Sadly, rancour seems to be the LP’s preferred solution to any internal disagreement.

    BTW, is Winchester also the venue for this year’s UKPR Christmas party?
    You know the one, where everybody gets together, forgets their tribal loyalties and past differences and just chat happily over a pint or ten while Colin enquires even more deeply about CR’s antecedents..

  40. PETE B, surely it can’t be Labours shambolic performance putting the Tories at 40%? I mean it’s only a week or so since the Tory party was just as shambolic.

    I’d say leadership bounce.

  41. Alec

    Of course this poll isn’t a MSM plot, there are questions that could be asked about methodology and whether it’s changed from the last Poll but its not any kind of plot

    We have all been surprised by the lack of movement in polls, this one seems much more in line with what we would expect considering recent events

    Are you ok, you seem to be having a corbyn related breakdown, your usual style is reserved and thoughtful and without rancour. Normally you are the only poster that stays within the comments policy but now…… ..

  42. According to Twitter, Corbyn is a bit of a fan of homeopathy. So maybe this is all a big experiment to test the whether the party can maintain its efficacy when he dilutes its vote to the point of extinction.

  43. Muddy waters

    If the SNP can win all but 3 seats in Scotland on a corbynite agenda why would labour be destroyed in England with that program? Are the two countries really that different?

  44. LASZLO

    Was there bye-elections with the SDP split?

    I think in terms of a split, apart from disaster at the next election, the result will be one party will collapse and the other will be the de facto Labour party. Like natural monopolies there isn’t room for two Labours in a FPTP system.

    Which way their voters turn who knows? With several years as the official opposition they might be able to establish themselves as a serious party.

    If Corbyn was relegated to only appearing in the multiway debates (which would be interesting to see in that scenario) etc, it might well fix the rebellion as the main opposition party in the publics mind, it’d certainly be a test of how powerful the Labour “Brand Name” is.

    In this situation, I’d have to feel sorry for the pollsters as we’d be in hugely uncertain times and the polls themselves might decide the future of the Labour party as Labour voters will tend to swing behind the whichever Labour party is winning in the polls and likely creating a snowball effect.

    Yes. The politics of Scots and English are worlds apart. For that matter, if a red as blood left winger gets elected in South Yorkshire, why not in Surrey. You should be that lucky.

  46. @CambridgeRach

    Thought this might be of interest, given earlier observations. From the Times…

    “Ministers cash in on Whitehall,Experience”

    “A record number of ministers and mandarins are cashing in on their Whitehall experience and taking up lucrative roles in private sector companies that they used to regulate… The watchdog that approved their appointments expressed concern at the growing number of ministers seeking jobs in a read for which they used to have responsibility.”

  47. “Are you ok, you seem to be having a corbyn related breakdown, your usual style is reserved and thoughtful and without rancour. Normally you are the only poster that stays within the comments policy but now…… ..”

    Sense of humour bypass?

  48. It’s just one poll. Let’s not get trapped by the phenomenon of giving undue attention to the polls showing Big Changes as AW always reminds us that the unusual poll results are the ones most likely to be wrong.

    It’s certainly more in line with most people’s expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

    The most consistent message I think the polls have given us over the 30 odd years I’ve been interested in politics is that the public don’t like disunited political parties. Carnal relations, drug use, financial indiscretions, policy ballsups, all these have small effects on polling compared to intraparty conflict.

    The Tories seem to have found a period of relative Zen calmness. Labour seem to be having some sort of mass brawl on the head of a pin. For that to be reflected in polls is what we’d all expect, but I am not moving to judgement yet.

  49. CambridgeRachel – ” ukip got us out of Europe with only one MP because they moved the terms of the debate.”

    Nigel Farage always had net positive approval ratings – the secret to his success was that a big chunk of the public liked him.

    See the following from YouGov from April 2015, just a few weeks before the general election (it has a nice graph going back to 2010 too):

    The story is about how Farage’s net approval has narrowed to “only” +6.

    That is why he was so dangerous to Cameron and why Cameron offered the referendum.

    Corbyn isn’t in that sort of position at all. His ratings are very negative – you can’t influence people if they don’t like you. Once people disapprove of you, they tune out and discount everything you say.

    P.S. A dip in Cameron’s net ratings to -24 in the April 2016 YouGov poll was a harbinger of where he has ended up – losing the referendum and no longer Prime Minister.

  50. LASZLO
    But of course Bercow could do what he wants

    In theory, certainly so, as the Parliament website simply says:
    Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is usually the political party with the second-largest number of seats in the House of Commons. The Official Opposition is currently the Labour Party.

    OTOH, the short Ministerial Salaries PDF states that:
    [T]he Leader of the Opposition and Opposition Chief and Deputy Chief Whips are entitled to a salary in addition to their salaries as Members of Parliament.

    That clearly assumes no change to which party is entitled to the additional public money, and presumably also means that any change of the dramatis personae during a single parliament must be open to some kind of legal challenge.

    Is this yet another “nobody knows” moment in UK constitutional history or can anyone find an authoritative source?

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