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. I wonder if there might be an option to voluntarily contribute to the EU budget in exchange for these rights.

    I’d pay my £2.50 week.

  2. @Alan

    I probably would too, and I voted to Leave.

    I’d certainly pay £2.50 a week to be an Associate Citizen of the United States….

  3. Neil A; “But what does it matter what company owns Cadbury’s and Jacobs-Suchard?”

    My post was in response to Maura’s “Toblerone is foreign.”

    I was making the point that Toblerone is as much Swiss as Cadbury’s is British, since both are brands owned by US corporation Mondelez. In other words, in a world dominated by corporations, it is anachronistic to talk of chocolate brands as “foreign” or British. Explaining like that makes it sound a rather po-faced point: I preferred James E’s “Don’t be a Toblermoaner!”

  4. @Somerjohn

    Sorry I didn’t realize you were being ironic and whimsical!

    I am not sure I completely agree that brands necessarily lose their national identity just because the producer is owned by foreigners. It rather depends on what changes, if any, the owner makes to the means and location of production, the ingredients and the marketing.

    If Mondelez bought Ginsters it would still be a Cornish pasty maker. Unless they moved production to Hungary, changed the name to “Lazslo’s” and put a lot of paprika in the recipe…

  5. @Neil A

    “As to the ban on importing British made chocolate, I don’t think that’s about anti-UK sentiment or any kind of omen for future trading relationships. It simply reflects the fact that the Cadbury’s brand is split between two companies, and Hersheys’ version is inedible, so they don’t want similarly named products that are actually nice coming over and stealing their thunder.”

    Well, it could be argued that it’s protectionist.

    Having said that I remember a similar dispute between the UK and some mainland European countries. The latter believed that UK chocolate bars were not really chocolate at all as most had very low levels of cocoa. They wanted the bars to be described as something else – not chocolate. I can’t recall whether the dilute was purely one of nomenclature or whether the mainland European countries wanted to ban all imports of UK milk chocolate bars.

  6. Have people forgotten the UK’s great victory in the Chocolate War of 1973-2003?

  7. @James E

    It appears that I remembered!

  8. @RAF, James,

    Similar but a little different.

    The EU dispute was about ingredients and product definitions. More akin to the “Is a jaffa cake a biscuit” case.

    The Cadbury dispute is really about trademarks. More akin to the Budweiser case, although subtly different in that rather than trying to assert primacy over the whole market, Hersheys’ is just trying to protect its product in the partial market (USA) that it holds title to.

  9. Don’t know if any of you follow “Law & Policy” (the FT legal commentator) but I find their comments instructive – eg that the Supreme Court decision will be more complex than the E&W High Court one, because matters that the UK Government might have won, purely on English law, now need to take account of Scots and Ni issues.

    I do apologise to my English & Welsh friends for this embarassment – though you could have avoided it by having a successful E&W indy referendum. :-)

  10. @Oldnat

    It does occur to me that the government could choose to cover all its bases in a single piece of legislation.

    Would it be legal to pass a Brexit bill that gave the governement the power to initiate A50 / revoke the European Communities Act, and also amended S28 of the Scotland Act to define “normally” (in a way that excludes international treaty decisions etc), and then went on to amend the Northern Ireland Act to rule out any interpretation that would block Brexit?

    After all if you have to go through the stress of pushing a bill through both houses, you may as well nail everything down whilst you’re there?

  11. Neil A

    That’d be one way to get it hung up in the lords for a long time.

    Amending the Scotland act, no matter how hard you squint, wasn’t in the manifesto.

  12. Neil A

    Of course. It is always open to the Uk Parliament to change the devolution settlement in any way that they want to.

    Of course, there may be political consequences of doing that,

  13. Oldnat,

    But surely the political consequences follow from Brexit in any event? We all know that Scotland will be having an indyref2. Would a definition of “normally” really be such a salient issue for Scots waverers?

  14. This website seems to forecast a Trump victory:

    Apparently on the basis of ‘hidden’ voters and Democrats secretly voting for Trump. Could there be a Brexit phenomenon brewing up? Or is it all BS?

  15. Seems to be the website of a Trump supporter rather than any kind of journalistic or psephological endeavour.

  16. I thought as much………

  17. Exit polls in Georgia have it 48-47 to Trump, if that turns out to be accurate will be a very good day for Clinton.

  18. Early days yet. Trump very slightly ahead in Florida – he needs to win it to have a prayer.

  19. Clinton moving ahead in Florida now…….65% of votes counted.

  20. @Tancred

    Regarding Florida, the experts do say that areas that have been counted are not the strong Democrat areas.

    It would appear that Mr Trump would need to be ahead by a quite bit now, before Democrat votes weigh in later.

  21. Clinton ahead in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. Game over for Trump.

  22. Said on the radio she’s ahead in a few solidly democratic precincts in Florida. But not got the results in from the solidly Republican panhandle…

  23. No American Brexit!

    Another defeat for the peasants revolt and the conspiracy theorists.

    Clinton as president will not be a friend to May. She will remember that Farage strongly endorsed Trump and will not be at all sympathetic to the brexiteers. Good news.

  24. It looks like another election where the Republicans have paid the price for being too narrowly based on a declining white voting base.

    When will they learn?

  25. It looks like Trump may be having a bad night. North Carolina looks very rocky, and he’s trailing in Ohio, which along with losing Florida would start to look like a heavy loss.

    What must be more alarming is that places like South Carolina and Alabama haven’t been called yet. These probably will go red, but they should be beyond rock solid. The fact that the networks are holding back suggests Trump is in trouble, but it is early days.

  26. Tancred

    But boris has been upping the anti Russian rhetoric in anticipation of a Clinton win. I think clinton and may will get along just as well as george and tony

  27. Its a real shock to see Texas coloured blue


    “But boris has been upping the anti Russian rhetoric in anticipation of a Clinton win. I think clinton and may will get along just as well as george and tony”

    Hmmm. Clinton is very much part of the establishment and a professional politician. She will be diplomatic of course, and the Americans value the alliance with the UK, but fundamentally she is a liberal and May a hard line conservative. I don’t see how the two can gel. Bush and Blair were not too dissimilar – Bush being a relatively moderate Republican and Blair on the liberal wing of Labour.

  29. I think it just said on the radio Trump’s now slightly ahead in florida, but forty percent of the vote still to come.

  30. @PETE B

    “Thanks for your reply to mine about tax credits. You must be doing some catching up because that was at least a couple of days ago. The debate’s moved on (or rather back) to the minutiae of Brexit timetables and wangles to get round the FTPA.”


    Yes it didn’t seem your post on tax credits was getting anything like the attention afforded the FTPA, so I was just doing my bit…

  31. @CARFREW

    “I think it just said on the radio Trump’s now slightly ahead in florida, but forty percent of the vote still to come.”

    It’s very close now but the Hispanic areas are the ones left to count. Clinton will almost certainly win unless there is a huge surprise.

  32. The Republicans will regret having agreed to change the constitution back in 1965 to allow mass immigration. The post-1965 immigrants have been a great asset to the Democratic Party.

  33. The beeb livevfeed suggests a close fight….

    “We got the first projected results in just under an hour ago and so far there there have been no surprises.

    Hillary Clinton took the state of Vermont and Donald Trump won the states of Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia – all Republican strongholds.

    What is surprising is that we are yet to get any projections in from any of the battleground states where polls have closed – indicating there are some closes races going on in states like Georgia and North Carolina.”

  34. Unfortunately for Trump it’s close where he should be winning, not where Clinton should be.

  35. “The Republicans will regret having agreed to change the constitution back in 1965 to allow mass immigration. The post-1965 immigrants have been a great asset to the Democratic Party.”


    Clearly they need to leave the EU. Which will fix everything…

  36. Looks like trump has flipped Virginia

  37. @CARFREW

    “Clearly they need to leave the EU. Which will fix everything…”

    In America it’s racial. White Americans are basically all from the EU!
    The non-whites are the ones changing the political map.

  38. I don’t at all agree with Tancred’s assessment (sorry Tancred!).

    It’s close where we would expect it to be close, with Trump potentially swinging the battleground states.

    For what my penny’s worth, I think Trump will lose, but if Florida sticks with him a penny’s all I’d offer.

  39. If – big if – Trump wins Florida, Virginia and Ohio, this will get interesting. Please let us not have a repeat of 2,000 with Florida.

  40. Looks like trump is winning, taken the lead in Ohio, michigan and Wisconsin. All states where anti trade deal talk is popular

  41. There is still a slim chance that Trump can do it – very slim chance but still there. He needs to carry Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan – if he does then Clinton will be sweating for the rest of the night.

  42. Well clearly they need to join the EU then. Then they can leave. Which will fix everything etc.

    Green party peep on the radio complaining at not gettjng enough exposure. She needs to be building a wall and stuff, that got exposure…

  43. Political analyst peeps worried that if Trump wins they’re gonna have to rewrite the playbook, cos Hillary’s superior ad spend and data operation is supposed to prevail…

  44. A lot of tight states also opens up the prospect of legal action or conspiracy theories taking root.

    Someone may lose by a small amount in a few places.

  45. Buy shares in white window paint manufacturers.

  46. The New YorkTimes algorithm now predicting 53% chance of Trump win. Meanwhile the yen is now surging…

  47. This is scary, the way NYT had a 83% chance of a Clinton win a couple of hours ago, now they have a 59% chance of a trump win

  48. I suppose it’s a bit less scary if you are holding some yen…

  49. Thoroughly depressing that a pig like this can become President. God help.

  50. Looks like Virginia will go for Clinton. Very close in Florida and North Carolina.

    I still pick Clinton – many of the states look like going to the wire, but the urban areas where she is strongest are often the last to declare.

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