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. “Nate Silver, of the FiveThirtyEight blog, says Clinton appears to be on course to win the popular vote by 3% to 4%, in line with national opinion polls.

    But – he adds – she is predicted to win only 290 Electoral College votes, a narrow margin of victory, which means Donald Trump has a decent shot of winning the presidency. That might be because Clinton’s support is not concentrated in swing states, he suggests.”

  2. “The Mexican currency has taken its steepest dive in more than 20 years tonight, Financial Times reports.”

  3. “Thoroughly depressing etc….”


    Especially if you’re holding Pesos…

  4. I’m off to bed now but I still favour Clinton to win it. Florida is the key one for Trump – if he loses there it’s over. He looks like winning Ohio and has a good chance in Wisconsin. Michigan and NC will be very close, as will NH.

    It’s all a numbers game, but I have a feeling this will be a nail biter right until the end, like in 2000. Whatever happens Trump has done remarkably well against a tough opponent, so he should be pleased.

  5. Watching BBC TV coverage. They started off going for Clinton as per polls, but right now muttering a lot about trump doing well and paths to victory opening up. Seemed to me consistent with recent election results, pollsters getting it wrong again. Favourite does not do nearly as well as expected. That is my lifetime view on polls.

  6. Trump now almost certain to win :O

    Sorry for the hyperbole, but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of the Western world…

  7. 86% chance of a trump win.

  8. (Also, from a polling perspective, wonder if there is a future for them if they are seen to publicly and repeatedly fail in such high profile cases,)

  9. For anyone still up, Nate Silver began the evening by giving HC a 72% chance of winning. He is now giving Donald Trump a 55% chance of winning.

    When I was in Canada recently I thought that DT had a much better chance of winning than anyone was then giving him and that the polls would get much closer. I thought that in the end she would prevail. Seems that on the latter I may well have been wrong.

  10. Its michigan that will be the big shocker. It wasn’t even listed as a potential swing state. Its all about trade deals, they hate nafta

  11. Another political establishment falls…..

    The world better take notice.

  12. Charles, to be fair to Nate he was steadfastly giving Trump a 20-30% chance when other polls were putting him in the sub-10% category. No one is going to come out of this smelling of roses, but Nate Silver was at least on the more realistic end of predictions.

    Some interesting observations from the 538 website, particularly that more rural voters taking part than expected, these of course tending heavily towards Trump. Rural votes often sustain leaders that urban populations can’t stomach.

    Also, given Trump’s unashamed dog whistle statements, wondering if there’s a shy trump effect.

  13. …but polling is sort of irrelevant when you consider what a Trump presidency is likely to do to the world. This is looking more and more like the 1930s.

  14. Looks very much like the Dems hang on to Virginia but only by a whisker. The Dems are well ahead in the Quaker state but trump is gaining. Its possible that it will fall to trump

  15. “A Hillary Clinton supporters attends her campaign event in New York – 8 November 2016Reuters
    “We feel good about Pennsylvania and Michigan and think that New Hampshire will hold up as well. Those plus New Hampshire or Nevada remains the most likely path to 270,” a senior aide for Hillary Clinton has told the Wall Street Journal.

    But some Clinton supporters are starting to come to terms with the “worst option”, as the BBC’s Deirdre Finnerty has been finding out at Clinton HQ.”

  16. Looks like Trump is president then.
    Bar building a wall between America and Mexico (and making them pay for it) and making America great again (not even sure what that means) anyone any ideas what his policies are?

  17. Pete

    Make America Great Again.

  18. Pete

    Grabbing cats

  19. Pete,
    I honestly don’t think Trump *cares* what his policies are, that’s why he contradicts himself often within minutes of making a policy statement.

    He is impulsive and shows no evidence of long term strategy, just wants to be the centre of the world. His business ventures usually don’t involve him doing anything except sticking his name on something in huge letters and taking credit for other people’s work.

    He is a textbook narcissist. He will do whatever amuses him. He is exactly the wrong person to be in charge of approx 7000 nuclear weapons.

  20. …and beyond just the immediate existential threat to the West, if Trump does do something truly Nazi-style that may be the nail in the coffin for democracy itself.

    Countries like China (and Russia?) will be able to hold him up as an example of why free elections should not be allowed to choose the head of government. It would be far worse than Hitler because Hitler never had nukes.

  21. Last I looked Trump had a 60 per cent chance of victory according to Nate S. i suspect that it is worse since his model factors in the polls and only progressively adds in the real results as they become available through the results from correlated states. As the polls have systematically underestimated how well Trump would do, I don’t like the situation at all, and can only hope that Pennsylvania which is too close too call somehow comes out the right way. contrary to my won’t I am trying to drink enough to be able to view a Trump presidency with equanimity. Currently this strategy is not working.

  22. Thought Trump would win. Of course slightly nervous on foreign policy implications, but Brexit lesson was there. People don’t like been told who to vote for by perceived establishment and celebrities.

  23. OMG Nate S now gives Donald T a 77% chance of winning. Florida has just gone his way.

  24. Charles

    Pennsylvania alone won’t do it.

  25. @Alan – Thanks for this information! (Or no thanks if you see what i mean)

  26. Perhaps it should be pointed out the democrats had a choice of Clinton or Obama as candidate last time round, and they chose Obama. Presumably they thought Clinton not as good. This time the republicans had a populist candidate, who could have done a lot better still without some of his personal baggage.

    They just commented Obama has a 54% approval rating, so in fact he is the person the US would prefer. I wonder what that says about term limits.

    I’d suggest the established parties in both the Uk and US failed to demonstrate they had done a sufficiently good job in power. Hence protest votes against them, brexit in the Uk and Trump in the US. My experience of the Uk is that governments lose elections, the opposition does not win them. We have reached the stage that voters prefer a new face (Trump, Farage) to either side of the establishment.

  27. “The websites for Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration department have crashed, Twitter users have found.

    People who tried to access the site couldn’t load the page, when they tried around 22:30 EST (03:30 GMT).

    Prior to election night, many celebrities and people online had claimed that if Trump were to win, they would head north of the border.

    But Business Insider still has a helpful guide for anyone fleeing northwards.”

  28. “We have reached the stage that voters prefer a new face (Trump, Farage) to either side of the establishment.”


    Whether or not Trumpy wins it’s another example of how liberalism isn’t doing too good…

  29. They seem to be pointing another parallel with the Uk, that both democrats and labour have been losing traditional working class support by moving to the centre and middle class. In both cases a new outsider with a cause has taken chunks of the blue collar, depressd tradional industry, voters.

    I’d suggest- there is limited mileage in trying to hold the centre, because you will lose your base.

    Moreover, Trump is no republican, and his policies, such as they are, are at odds with those of the likely republican congress. Again as with the UK where parliament opposes Brexit, the legislature will have to decide whether to accept or oppose trump.

    And again, the actual vote is pretty much a dead heat in both nations. Fundamentally divided.

  30. @Maybe but on the whole incumbent senators etc aren’t losing. I suspect that Trump is winning because a) Republicans are in the main voting like republicans b) Evangelicals are ignoring Trump’sl shenanigans and voting because of the supreme court etc c) the white working class which used to vote democrat has had enough of trade deals, is angry about its loss of jobs and the flagrant inequality of the whole system, blames immigrants and trade deals and feel that voting for Trump makes their point,

    Recently I was subjected to an almost non-stop diet of CNN at a point when the news agenda was about nothing but Trump’s behaviour with women and the consensus was that there was no way he could win. I felt then that potentially he had a winning coalition and it was only because he was so unbelievably awful that the world might be saved from him.

    So in many ways Brexit all over again. We will have to see if Trump is Trump just as Brexit is Brexit.

  31. What “Conservative Correction Factor” are we going to have to manually add to all Opinion Polls from now on? 3%, 5%, more?

  32. Dollar’s falling, Dow has lost over 700 points…

  33. @ Carfrew

    These voters are certainly punishing people. The problem is that the people punished probably includes themselves,

  34. If you’re fretting, we still don’t know if Donald will accept the result yet…

  35. @Charles

    “These voters are certainly punishing people. The problem is that the people punished probably includes themselves”


    Persuading peeps to do themselves over tends to be one of the ways the powerful acquire power.

    But sometimes peeps are given a Hobson’s choice whereby either way they wind up screwed…

  36. Seems as good a time as any to mention the important business of the day, where our nineteen year old debutant is going well opening the batting against India…

  37. @Carfrew you may be right. They might be screwed either way. This way, I suspect, may be worse for the world economy and possibly for its stability and hence for them. Either way they will get their ‘Blair disillusionment’. I and my wife stayed up late to watch the demise of Portillo and felt that all would be well from then on. Now I quite like Portillo who appears as a genial and occasionally wise train buff while I have been deeply disappointed in Blair and all that he did.

  38. @Charles

    It wasn’t that long ago in the history of the human race peeps were burned as witches and stuff. Look at what happens in war zones today and at times it seems a miracle we have what we have.

    For things to work better it tends to require greater sophistication in how things are done, greater appreciation of knock-on effects, subtle interactions etc., and these things tend to be a harder sell. It’s a lot easier to sell the idea of building a wall, for eggers.

  39. What a disaster.
    Looks like Trump has over 300 EVs, even if he ultimately losing the popular vote nationally.

  40. “Japan’s top currency diplomat, Masatsugu Asakawa, is consulting finance minister Taro Aso on how to respond to the roiling markets, reports Reuters. The Nikkei index is now down by more than 6%.”

  41. Perhaps the heading of this thread should now be ‘No Tregrets’?!

  42. Charles,
    “These voters are certainly punishing people. The problem is that the people punished probably includes themselves,”

    Brexit deja vue. However.. at least the US has directed its protest vote at the institutions causing the problem, rather than one which has nothing to do with it.

    Trump could institute an anti trade isolationist US policy which just might work. Whether the republicans in congress would allow him to do so is quite another matter. Unlike the Uk, the US could make isolationism work.

  43. Trump about one percent ahead in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Not sure what this means for synths…

  44. I’m just taking off from Thailand to the USA. Will be interesting to be on the ground there for the next week to gauge the mood.

    I would say this is a good result for Brexit Britain whatever people’s personal distaste for Trump. “The UK will be at the front of the line for a trade deal”.

    With the USA and UK being Ireland’s biggest trade partners, are we witnessing the end of Ireland in the EU as well? Given the choice of a free trade deal.

  45. If Trump wins, who’s gonna be the one to break it to Tancred?* He can’t have too many blood vessels left to burst…

    * I’d do it but I’m busy. Cricket ‘s on etc…

  46. At what point will the parties of the left start listening to the views of the working classes? Trump is about to win based on the votes of white men in the rust belt. Leave won on the votes of workers in the Northern towns. The UK was nearly broken (and may yet be) by the Glasgow estates. Trump, Sturgeon and Farage may all be cut from the same cloth but they are winning in democracies and so there is no point crying about it when Labour and the Democrats could reach out to the same dissafected voters that the populists have. The only surprise about tonight is that we are surprised.

    “For things to work better it tends to require greater sophistication in how things are done, greater appreciation of knock-on effects, subtle interactions etc., and these things tend to be a harder sell. It’s a lot easier to sell the idea of building a wall, for eggers.”

    You’re in danger of wanting to be taken seriously. I think it’s the effect of debating with Charles.

    To take this discussion back to AW’s advisory:

    “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.”

    there seem to me to be two measurable elements in a Bregret response: one that of a repulsion from the disinformation knowingly put out by senior Tories – you’ld expect it from Farage, who actually believes his own untruths; and the slow unwinding of the economic consequences of the threat of Brexit and the destructive force this may be having on industry and the labour force, and on the institutions which support them, including the EU itself.

    Its in respect of the latter that the truth of your, I suspect heartfelt, call for a more informed and subtle political and economic management is becoming increasingly apparent and relevant. Beyond the tubercular flush that may at present be lighting up the economy, there’s I suspect a sickly awareness of an impact on jobs, currencies, people’s property and pensions and an impact on other nations’ economies which will take eighteen months or a year to come through, and a very unpleasant sense that Dr May’s assurance that it will all be for the best if we spend a while in her sanitorium and breathe the mountain air.

  48. ….will end on the sick bed.

  49. Thomas

    The left will not help the working class commit suicide.

    I mean, Trump a working class hero? Come on!

  50. Current projection is that Clinton will win the popular vote.. so presumably the referendum fans will all be upset at that..

    On polling, the national polls are possibly going to be within m.o.e, but the state polls wildly wrong in many cases..

    Anyway I have always thought America’s electoral system is even worse than ours!

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