No Bregrets

Almost as soon as the referendum votes were counted people were asking for polling on whether people regretted their decision. There is still a certain audience who seem downright desperate to find polling showing that people do not, after all, want to leave the European Union (and, I suppose, a (slightly larger) audience who want to see polls showing they don’t!). I guess this is the curse of a referendum decision that takes a couple of years to actually implement.

The most straightforward way of measuring Bregret is to ask the referendum question again – how would people vote if the referendum question was asked again now. Several polls have done that:

YouGov/Eurotrack (20th-25th Oct) Remain 44%, Leave 43%
BMG (19th-24th Oct) Remain 45%, Leave 43%
YouGov/Eurotrack (21st-22nd July) Remain 43%, Leave 44%
YouGov/Eurotrack (3rd-4th July) Remain 45%, Leave 45%

All of these suggest a very small movement towards Remain, and given Leave’s lead was only four points that’s enough to flip the result in a couple of cases. However, I’d be a little cautious in reading too much into the results. All of these polls are just straight “how would you vote questions” with no attempt to account for differential turnout, when at the referendum Leave voters were more liable to turnout. If you look at the actual tables for these you’ll find there is very little movement between remain and leave, the shift is down to people who didn’t vote in the referendum claiming that in a referendum tomorrow they would vote in favour of Remain. That’s possible of course (perhaps people who assumed a Remain victory in June and didn’t bother to vote, now realising their vote really would count)… but I’m rather sceptical about people saying they’d vote in an EU referendum who didn’t bother to vote in the one we just had.

The approach alternative is to ask if people think it was the right decision and if they might change their vote.

Just after the referendum there was an poll by Ipsos MORI for Newsnight, which showed 43% of people thought Brexit was the right decision, 44% thought it was the wrong decision. Asked if they would change their mind in a new referendum, 1% of Remain voters said they would definitely or probably change their mind, 5% of Leave voters said they would definitely or probably change their mind. If those people all switched to the other side it would have just edged into a Remain lead.

In contrast YouGov have regularly asked if people think the decision to leave was right or wrong, and have tended to find slightly more people saying it was the right decision. The pattern of opinion is pretty consistent – movement between Remain and Leave is small and tends to cancel out, people who didn’t vote at all tend to split in favour of it being the wrong decision:

YouGov/Times (11th-12th Oct) – Right to Leave 45%, Wrong to Leave 44%
YouGov/Times (13th-14th Sep) – Right to Leave 46%, Wrong to Leave 43%
YouGov/Times (30th-31st Aug) – Right to Leave 47%, Wrong to Leave 44%
YouGov/Times (22nd-23rd Aug) – Right to Leave 45%, Wrong to Leave 43%
YouGov/Times (8th-9th Aug) – Right to Leave 45%, Wrong to Leave 44%
YouGov/Times (1st-2nd Aug) – Right to Leave 46%, Wrong to Leave 42%

Finally the British Election Study asked a question on whether people regretted how they voted or not. Only 1% of people who voted Remain said they regretted their vote, but 6% of people who voted Leave said they regretted their vote. Now, saying you’ve some regrets doesn’t necessarily mean that you wouldn’t, on balance, end up doing the same. For what it’s worth though, if those people who had regrets hadn’t voted the result would still have been leave; if those people had voted the opposite way it would’ve been Remain.

Looking across the board at all this polling, there is a suggestion that public opinion may have moved very slightly towards Remain, and with only a four point lead that’s enough to change the lead in some polls. However, in most cases that apparent movement isn’t people changing their minds, but is down to the opinions of those people who didn’t actually vote last time. That means if there was another referendum right now, if turnout was similar to June the result would probably be similar too.

My expectation is that, given time, we probably will see “Bregret”, simply because Brexit is going to be tested against reality while Remain isn’t. The road ahead has a lot of obstacles and some Leavers’ hopes and expections will be dashed (Remainers’ hopes and expectations of what would have happened if we’d stayed won’t, of course, face the same collision with reality). The lead at the referendum was only 4%, so it really won’t take that many people having second thoughts to flip opinion over. To those who really want to see evidence of Bregret in the polls – have a bit of patience. It will probably come in time, but the data really isn’t there to support it now.


814 Responses to “No Bregrets”

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  1. @Hawthorn: I’m still betting Le Pen will not become the next French president. After the Brexit vote, I actually feared that lightning could strike twice and we would end up with a president Trump. However, a three-time strike is even more improbable. .

  2. Some excellent posts here today, especially from @NeilA and @TOH on the potential international consequences and electoral success of President-elect Trump.

    The one thing I would add to @TOH’s analysis of the reasons for Trumps’ victory / Clinton’s defeat is that the former seems to have managed to keep together the ‘grand coalition’ of Republican Party voters far better than he managed to keep together the senior elected members of the GOP during his campaign.

    It wasn’t just a certain section of the Hispanic community that ‘held their noses’ and voted for Trump, it appears that large numbers of evangelical Christians and social conservatives in states like Utah and across the traditional ‘Bible belt’ overlooked his ‘colourful’ personal life, lewd remarks and previously liberal positions on social issues and lent him their votes, presumably as the lesser of two evils from their perspective.

    Overall, I see little to cheer for in this election from the point of view of democracy. It has surely been one of the coarsest, most unpleasant campaigns fought in recent memory, and almost entirely devoid of serious policy debate.

    The strategy of negative personality attacks, deployed by both major campaigns, though probably not in equal measure, seems to have depressed the number of Americans choosing to participate very significantly – down 20m on 2012 I think @TOH mentioned.

    I wonder if here there is a parallel with the 1920s and 30s. Then we saw a similar debasement of political argument which coincided with the development of talking pictures and the wireless as forms of mass media. The trend in our own age seems to align almost directly with the explosion of wireless internet and social media. Let’s hope that’s where the parallels end.

    Finally, it does indeed appear that Hilary Clinton will win the popular vote in the presidential election. She has, according to the latest figures, already taken a slight lead. With the overwhelming majority of votes yet to be counted in California – Clinton rich territory – she may indeed end up winning handily.

    All electoral systems have their quirks, but a presidential ballot, which is pretty much a two horse race, that hands the prize to the candidate that fails to achieve the largest number of votes in two out of five elections over less than a generation seems to be, to say the least, problematic.

  3. Alec

    Interesting comments from you. I agree to an extent on Trade deals. I think that is much less chance of a deal with the EU for example. I am not so sure about the UK however. He certainly supported Brexit which is in our favour and he appears to find Farage an amusing companion. I think that a UK/USA is an open question, certainly somewhat more likely than it would have been under Clinton.

    With regard to the Republican party, many one on his “coat tails” and i think he will considerably less trouble than you think. Will they build a wall? Who knows, interestingly he certainly got more Latino votes than exopected. I thnk its a bit like Brexit. Both campaigns were awful but forget that retoric now the voting is over.

  4. Hilary Won !–at least she did in the paddypower election.

  5. The problem is that Juppé has been involved in a corruption scandal, and not a BS one blown up by his opponents.

    One hope would be the French nativist desire to be un-American. If Juppé can play the Gaullist card strongly, he might end up being okay.

  6. @TOH & @Colin

    “So what chance of Marine Le Pen for French President?”

    This is a very good question, and one that will be upon us much more quickly than many imagine.

    The French have decided to adopt a system of primaries broadly along the American model for the selection of the candidates for both the major centre Right group (Les Républicains) and a broader coalition of the centre left including the socialists.

    The first round of voting for the Republicains is on 20 November, with a second round (if no candidate achieves 50% or more) on 27 November.

    It is a national open primary and any registered French voter (regardless of party) can participate.

    At the moment Alain Juppe (mayor of Bordeaux, ex PM etc) leads Sarkozy (ex President) comfortably, but not by enough to win in the first round.

    If the polls are to be believed – ahem – Juppe would win clearly in a second round run off 55/45% to 60/40%

    This is the key battle as the winner of this contest is almost certain to make the second round run off in the actual presidential vote (again according to current polls).

    Their most likely rival there is Marine le Pen, who is already the FN’s candidate.

    It is not yet clear whether Hollande will even stand for his party’s nomination in their primary on 22 January 2017 – he has spoken before about standing aside if he cannot win.

    Either way, at present it seems unlikely that any candidate from the fractured left will make it through to the second round of the presidential vote, being beaten into third place by le Pen.

    We therefore have a centre right vs far right election in the offing. Here, the selection of the candidate by Les Republicains could be crucial.

    Polls show that a Sarkozy vs le Pen run off would have the former president winning, but often by at little as 56/44% Given the lessons of the recent past, this would seem to be prime territory for an upset.

    If Juppe prevails (his individual poll ratings mark him out as the most popular politician in France) the margin of victory tends to 70/30% An upset bigger than anything we have seen thus far. would therefore be required.

    The reasons are (1) Juppe’s personal ratings and (2) the preparedness of centre left voters to ‘hold their noses’ and vote for Juppe to stop le Pen, something they are less prepared to do with the highly divisive Sarkozy.

    There are strong echoes of the US election here – the centrist ‘establishment’ party has to pick the appealing candidate if it wants to win.

    As to the French being contrary – of course – but their electing Juppe, who is campaigning on a platform of ‘happiness as the natural disposition of the French’, would be bucking an international trend, so I suppose would satisfy any urge to go ‘the other way’.

    By the way, the French presidential elections are followed immediately by National Assembly polls meaning they are in an election cycle from now right the way through 2017.

  7. Alec

    Deary me, should have read …………….many won on his “coat tails”

  8. I’ve seen a couple of comments here suggesting that Trump’s victory was another massive polling error.

    It wasn’t.

    The polling averages for the last couple of weeks had Clinton roughly +3 or +4. She is probably going to win the popular vote by +2 or +3.

  9. @Hawthorn

    “The problem is that Juppé has been involved in a corruption scandal, and not a BS one blown up by his opponents.”

    It’s rather difficult to find a French politician who hasn’t been involved in some corruption scandal. The same is true of both le Pen and Sarkozy.

    Little capital is being made of it as Juppe is widely seen as having taken a fall for Chirac who was the main culprit. Juppe has also been elected to several positions since his ‘rehabilitation’.

    His ‘Gaulist card’ is quite an interesting one, and highly influenced by new social philosophy. The launch speech of his campaign was so abstract and philosophical – debating the nature of nationality, identity, the state, security and personal happiness – that it would never have seen the light of day in the US or UK, but went down quite well in France.

    His main path to victory is, however, his acceptability to centre left voters as a ‘stop le Pen’ candidate.

  10. ASSIDUOSITY
    Really nice to see you post again, welcome back. I guess you know it has been a little unpleasant here since you last posted, so you were probably wise to have a break.
    Thanks for that detailed piece on the upcoming French election. I have saved it in a file to refer to as that election drawers near.
    Thanks again.

  11. neil A,
    “I am not sure I’ve yet seen a UKPR contributor who advocates them all at the same time.”

    smacks of desperation.

    Sea Change,
    “Trump has stated he would seek a Free Trade Deal with the UK.”

    Do we want a free trade deal? surely what we want and they want is a protectionist deal for us but not for them. It always comes down to using leverage to do better than the other party. He will make a deal, but what sort, and why would it be better than now?

    “Just because a bunch of the Republicans denounced him because it was politically expedient at the time to do so doesn’t mean a thing going forward…you watch, the movement will now kiss and make-up quickly.”

    They denounced him because his views were distinctly different from theirs. Are they now willing to give up their views and do as he says?

    Mbruno,
    “Obama even seemed to be trying to build an alternative “special relationship” with Germany and France.”
    I expect the US foreign office will explain to Trump why they think this is a good idea, and he will agree.

    ” His focus will be rather on the cheap imports from China and Mexico.”

    And Nissan in Sunderland.

  12. @NEIL A

    “I had no intention of staying up for the election (partly as I assumed it would be a fairly solid Clinton win) but foolishly I thought I’d stay up for the first couple of tranches of results…
    Several hours later I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen…
    Now I’ve had to ask for some time off work….”

    ————-

    Yes, Cricket can do that to ya…

  13. Lot of people talking about Trump not doing any free trade deals. He never said he will stop free trade. He’s been talking about ‘renegotiating’ them and it will be much easier for US and UK to get a deal than US and EU.

  14. The question is how the EU will react to a US/UK rapprochement under Trump, especially when Trump is close to leaders like Farage and Geert Wilders (who also attended Trump’s convention BTW). Theresa May has a very delicate balance to strike. On one hand, she should not ignore the opportunities the UK may have with the Trump administration, especially a possible bilateral trade deal. On the other hand, however, she cannot appear to be antagonizing the EU to the point of causing a backlash in the Brexit negotiations. At first sight, Trump’s election strengthens the UK’s hand, but there are risks too,

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