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. @Sea Change,

    It does make you wonder about the Democrats. To end up having to choose between an avowed Socialist and the ultimate establishment insider was a pretty incredible cul de sac to steer themselves down. There’s something very “Corbyn and the Labour Party” about it. I suppose the equivalent would be if the Labour leadership had been a run off between Corbyn and Lord Mandelson.

    I think more than anything what America needs to look at is its system(s) for selecting candidates. I wonder if the country is simply too big and too diverse these days for decent politicians to make any impact without a lot of razzmatazz and/or smoke-and-mirrors. Both parties need to find a way to let quality rise to the top. The Democrats managed it with Obama (although I think his performance in some areas has been lacking) but he had an inherent celebrity because of his race.

    I suppose the question is, why wasn’t Elizabeth Warren the Democratic candidate? What changes can they make to ensure they get someone of her stature next time?

  2. Any news on the polling post-mortem in the States? This is the biggest polling disaster in America since the Truman upset win in 1948.

  3. @SoCalLiberal,

    If you’re lurking out there, can I express our commiserations and sympathy, and we’d very much welcome a contribution from you. Of course I can understand why you might not wish to at this point.

  4. Sea change,
    “It’s much more than that in electoral terms. It’s 2/3 to 1/3 on a constituency basis. And if there is any attempt at blocking or backsliding then a General Election will set the matter right.”

    No. You are thinking in electoral terms what might constitute a win under first past the post, which is a derisorily low majority. This is a real world issue that people believe in, not the usual lab/con nonsense. 100% of people will judge on how it turns out, not what they think now.

    The irony is that brexit will not solve any of the problems Brexiteers are complaining about, so in that sense it is doomed to fail. And then watch for the wrath of the leave voters as well as remain.

  5. @Tancred “Clinton was perceived as being too removed from middle America. She was close to ethnic minority groups, gays, feminists and assorted weirdos of one sort or another. This alienated most Americans who had no empathy for these people. Most people were fed up with Hillary Clinton – it’s a s simple as that.”

    Yes that’s true. It’s telling that she needed pop stars to draw crowds to her events. Whereas Trump’s gigs had people queuing round the block. The Clinton name is just too tainted with the whiff of secrecy and corruption. And she ijust does not come across as a warm and likeable character.

  6. @JASPER22

    “The EU will, over the next few years, slowly implode as the Euro project unravels because of the poverty it has brought to the working peoples of the continent, most notably in Greece, Spain and Italy. The Europeans will start turning on one another.”

    Dream on, dream on. EU countries have something that the US and UK don’t have: a full welfare state based on the social contract. For example, pensioners in Italy retire on 80-86% of final net salary in Italy – in Britain the state pension is only 30% of average gross salary. In Denmark, unemployment benefit is 80% of your last salary, and lasts up to two years. There will be no brexit equivalent and people like Le Pen are considered extremists, irrespective of the support she gets. Far right parties attract protest votes, not mass movements in political support.

  7. Seachange

    Interesting comment you make about the possibility of Ireland leaving the eu and forming a block with the uk, the Us, Canada and Australia.

    Re, Ireland, Is this more likely the more the eu interferes in its Apple affairs? I don’t know but it would make a lot of sense. Is there any polling on it?

  8. @Danny “No. You are thinking in electoral terms what might constitute a win under first past the post, which is a derisorily low majority. This is a real world issue that people believe in, not the usual lab/con nonsense. 100% of people will judge on how it turns out, not what they think now.”

    My point is Brexit will happen, and if it takes a General Election to ensure that, so be it. There will be no 2nd Referendum in the short to medium term.

    I have every faith we will secure new trade relationships if the EU decides to punish us with no deal whatsoever in an act of self immolation. However I seriously doubt that will happen.

    @Neil A. I agree it was a bizarre choice – especially given the proclivities of the average US voter. It comes down to the undue influence the Clinton machine had in dominating the Dem High Command.

  9. Millie – “I read somewhere recently that the median American male is presently earning exactly the same in real terms as he was in 1976. A staggering statistic if true, and probably the core explanation for the result.”

    Yeah. And to add insult to injury, on 25th October Obamacare premiums jumped by 25%. See

    http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-obamacare-premiums-20161025-snap-story.html

    Remember that the premiums are based on risk, not ability to pay, and if you are struggling and paying a high premium, you would feel quite desperate if you had to find another 25%. It’s extremely unfortunate that their govt announces the premiums each October, right before elections (whoever designed that schedule wasn’t thinking straight).

    People voted with their pocket books. They probably agreed that Trump was an unpleasant man but thought, I can’t afford altruism, I need this sorted now, and we can sort the other stuff later.

  10. Sea Change,
    “The clear solution is a free trade deal between Ireland, UK and USA with Canada & Australia/NZ to come as well. This would be an English speaking free trade area of 450 Million people.”

    Why would they give us better terms than we have now?

    BT says,
    “What is this new deal that Trump has promised for the poor white. I would be glad to know details.”
    Um. tax cuts and trade barriers to support US industry. increased government borrowing.Public works. Interest rate cuts. There is no defined policy but he promised one. It rather remains to be seen what he will do, but also what congress will allow him to do.

    Sea Change,
    ” it’s a Republican clean sweep”

    No it isnt. Its a Trump presidency and a republican congress. I expect he will wish to top the impossible achievement of becoming president without the support of either party by being a good president.

    Tancred,
    “Most people were fed up with Hillary Clinton – it’s a s simple as that”

    No. He won the republican nomination against the party candidates all by himself. That was carried him to victory.

  11. @Robert Newark

    No polling that I am aware of. I’m just proposing what I think is in Ireland’s long-term best interests.

    1) Continuance of the Common Travel Area
    2) No return to the troubles, no internal borders and a continued movement towards re-unification
    3) Their largest export market is the USA
    4) Their second largest export market is the UK
    5) Their largest import supplier is the UK
    6) Common shared language and culture.

    It’s the sensible strategy IMO.

    I suggest May gets on a plane to the USA soon and makes a stop in Dublin along the way.

  12. @MACTAVISH

    “Any news on the polling post-mortem in the States? This is the biggest polling disaster in America since the Truman upset win in 1948.”

    I agree. It’s as a disaster for the pollsters. I can see several top jobs being lost in the industry and a lot of shouting and swearing behind office doors.

  13. @Sea Change,

    It’s an interesting idea but I don’t think it will happen in the short term.

    Perhaps, if there is a Hard Brexit, followed by a close relationship between the UK and North America, Sturgeon loses Indyref2 and RoI is suffering economically from trade barriers between the UK and the EU.

    But that’s an awful lot of “ifs” and some of them are definitely not the odds on most likely outcomes.

  14. @Danny

    It is an interesting mishmash.

    There are some here who believe that abandoning free trade and a massive program of public spending are good ideas, there are others here who believe that cuts to corporate and private taxes are a good idea.

    I am not sure I’ve yet seen a UKPR contributor who advocates them all at the same time.

    I agree that congress will be key. There was a very good centrist Republican commentator on the BBC show last night (Susan something – quite nice looking too although expect it’s misogyny to say so) who simply took the position that she couldn’t vote for Trump because Trump isn’t a Republican.

    Will congress put forward “Republican” policies to Trump and see if he will sign them? Or will Trump put together an iconoclastic cabinet that will push forward with some of his wilder ideas, and if so will Congress block them?

  15. I don’t buy the notion of the “shy Trump” voters in the sense of them being ashamed to declare their allegiance, though I think it likely that they were disproportionately unwilling to participate in polls.

    Thus the likely cause of the inaccuracy in the polls is that white, working-class & rural middle-class Americans were under-represented in the samples, and that this was not realised by the pollsters or they appreciated that this was the case but applied insufficient weighting to compensate.

    The unprecedented nature of Trump as a Presidential candidate meant that historical data was a poor basis for designing the sampling frame.

  16. @Danny “Why would they give us better terms than we have now?”

    Trump has stated he would seek a Free Trade Deal with the UK. And that he will end the failed negotiations with the EU.

    The USA is not about to demand freedom of movement. Neither will Canada/Australia/NZ.

    I am still hopeful we will have good trade relations with the EU as well of course. But no freedom of movement and no ECJ.

    —-

    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 are a pragmatic lot.

  17. @NEIL A – It will be determined I believe by how the EU handle the divorce proceedings. If they insist on duties and custom barriers then that will be a disaster for Ireland.

  18. Question…..

    If the UK does leave the EU single market and is subject to trade rules that include tariffs, surely this does mean a customs border between Ireland and the UK ? The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would have customs checks. There would need to be additional customs border staff at UK and Irish ports.

    I can’t see that a customs border would not be necessary, unless the EU agrees a special deal that helps Ireland.

  19. On the US election, once again we saw a huge failure in polling and forecasting. No, the statistical science is not wrong, but modelling people’s behaviour may be much tougher than modelling electric signals for example.

    On the bright side, if there is any, a Trump presidency, despite his protectionist rhetoric, will paradoxically make it easier for the post-Brexit UK to negotiate some kind of comprehensive trade deal with the United States, as Mr. Trump , unlike president Obama, seems to believe the UK should be “first in the queue” .

  20. @R Huckle,

    A customs border yes, but it wouldn’t affect “free movement” between the two countries, just the movement of goods.

    Essentially it would amount to random checks of vehicles to see if anyone had thousands of euros worth of goods in the back.

    It definitely has implications for the UK-Ireland relationship and the Good Friday agreement, but I don’t think it would necessarily be catastrophic in itself.

    The real catastrophe would be if there were 20% tariffs on goods between the two sides of the border and there were huge incentives to smuggle. Then the security might need to be pretty stringent, not just on roads but across the whole border. But of course the UK won’t be pushing for tariffs, quite the opposite. I suspect that is partly Seachange’s point. If the EU wants to “punish” (or “treat reasonably with” if that’s your poison) the UK by imposing tariff barriers then the effect on their citizens will be uneven with some barely affected and some (like the Irish) hit very hard. That might cause strains in intra-EU relationships that push Ireland away from Brussels.

    It’s hard to know. It may not happen, and if it does it may be the Irish will be more angry at the UK for voting to leave than they are at the EU for gaming that outcome.

  21. @R HUCKLE

    Yup that’s precisely my point. Refusal by the EU to do a trade deal with the UK will inevitably cause Ireland massive problems.

  22. MrBruno

    I suspect Trump’s attitude to free trade is a bit like his attitude to the fairness of the election process.

    “I won’t think it’s rigged if I win”.

    He will be very keen for the US to export to the UK, and much less keen for the US to import from the UK (particularly things like steel which he will be seeking to protect).

    Where the US might benefit from Brexit is if the EU insists on WTO rules and therefore EU countries lose some of their advantages over the US in exporting to Britain. The British consumer might be quite pleased to replace European goods with US versions, even if they are more expensive, if the price differential reduces.

  23. The political problem with cosying up to Trump is that he is toxic in the UK, except for UKIPers.

  24. What is the betting that Mrs May names Farage our ambassador to the US?

    It gets him out of the way (and thus reduces UKIP’s political threat), plus he does seem to get on with the Orange One. Farage would love the prestige of being the ambassador in Washington and would have massive fun teasing all the liberals there too!

  25. @HAWTHORN

    “The political problem with cosying up to Trump is that he is toxic in the UK, except for UKIPers.”

    Hmmm. I think this has been exaggerated. Many Tories secretly or openly support Trump.

  26. @Candy

    We are not the Americans. We send diplomats to do diplomacy. Not undiplomatic bruisers.

    @Hawthorn

    I don’t think anyone would “cosy up” with Trump. But May is more likely than most to be able to sustain an equitable and professional relationship with him.

    Ultimately it won’t be Trump that we’ll be talking to, but his trade representatives. I don’t think UK antipathy to “The Donald” is going to extend to sending his entire administration to Coventry.

  27. @MBRUNO

    “On the bright side, if there is any, a Trump presidency, despite his protectionist rhetoric, will paradoxically make it easier for the post-Brexit UK to negotiate some kind of comprehensive trade deal with the United States, as Mr. Trump , unlike president Obama, seems to believe the UK should be “first in the queue””

    This is probably true. However a lot depends on how the EU, and the Germans in particular, deal with Trump. Already I’ve seen a stone faced spokesman from the German government making unfriendly noises – not a good start – and Merkel has been silent. Hollande has also been oddly silent. At least Donald Tusk of the European Commission has done the decent thing and congratulated Trump.

  28. NeilA

    ” I don’t think UK antipathy to “The Donald” is going to extend to sending his entire administration to Coventry.”

    I think that is very true. Many on the”Right” in the UK including myself might not have wanted to vote for either Presidential candidate if we had been American voters, but in most other respects have much more in common with Republicans than they do with Democrats.

  29. For Trump to have a professional relationship with our female Prime Minister, he would have to change the habit of a lifetime.

    Who said he would be even sending trade delegations? We just don’t know. It is just as likely that we will be seen as an irrelevance now that Trump has got what he wants.

    I don’t actually think that most Tory voters are right-wing nuts and the Americans voting him in just confirms Britain’s worst prejudices against them. Think Blair’s popularity trajectory after the Blair and Bush love-in x10 if May goes pro-American now.

    The only hope is that he is an old geezer who looks in quite bad physical shape.

  30. TOH

    It is not antipathy to the Republicans but Trump himself. I do not include UKIP or UKIP-lite right such as yourself.

  31. Candy

    “What is the betting that Mrs May names Farage our ambassador to the US?”

    Amusing idea :-)

  32. @Hawthorn: The UK will have to strike a relationship one way or the other. Under Obama, clearly the EU had priority over bilateral US0UK relations. In fact, Obama even seemed to be trying to build an alternative “special relationship” with Germany and France. Trump, on the other hand, I assume will be more hostile to the EU and possibly closer to the UK. There are areas, however, where Trump’s positions in foreign affairs conflict with the UK position, especially with respect to Russia / Ukraine and the future role of NATO.

    On the issue of protectionism, I don’t have enough information, but I suspect the UK won’t be a particular target because Britain is not a major exporter of manufactured goods to the US like China, Canada, or Mexico for example. Besides, some of the manufacturing goods that the UK does export to North America are more in the high-end/ luxury market, where local US manufacturers are not active anyway.

  33. @HAWTHORN

    “The only hope is that he is an old geezer who looks in quite bad physical shape.”

    He looks good to me for his age. Better than Reagan was, for sure.

  34. Lots of people assuming Trump will be good news for a UK trade deal.

    How does this square with the fact that the man has promised to protect US workers from free trade deals?

    If we take Trump’s campaign statements at face value, we are now in a very difficult world, where our defence alliances stretching back seven decades face being ripped up and international agreements on issues like trade and climate change now appear to be on the verge of being revoked.

    Personally I suspect Trump is going to have huge task ahead of him squaring his rhetoric with reality (is Mexico really going to pay for that wall) and I seriously doubt he will enact many of the policies he espoused during the campaign. After all, much of the Republican establishment disowned him, and they are the ones that control Congress.

    There is bound to be some rowing back, but the uncertainty is going to be difficult, and this also helps set the tone for big elections in Europe next year.

  35. The only way that we or the EU get a trade deal is if Trump does a complete U-turn on his campaign.

  36. Raf
    The surprising one is white women. All polls had Hillary miles ahead amongst women.

    During the nomination battle she struggled amongst younger women.

    Based on a sample of two or three C4 news bulletins (I watch at the gym occasionally, but I’ve been running outside all summer) TV crews seemed to have difficulty finding mobs of enthusiastic young women who planned to vote for Clinton.

    She may not have helped herself by picking an anti-abortion running mate.

  37. If Trump gets his way, we will be seeing America engage in import-substitution policies. For an economy the size of America, that is actually quite feasible and not nuts. It worked in India under Nehru.

    We are not at the back of the queue because the queue have been told to f off.

    The rest of the Republican party will get their tax cuts and keep their guns so will not rock their boat as they will get what care about.

  38. Hi folks
    I have a busy day today, so no time to catch up on all the posts. Apologies if any of this has already been said.

    I’m in two minds about the Trump victory. One part dreads a maverick president, especially when the Republicans also control the Senate and House of Representatives. On the other hand, it’s another kick up the backside for the holier-than-thou, virtue-signalling so-called liberal elite. Ordinary people around the world are fed up with it all.

    And on a brighter note, England did well on the first day of the Test Match! (Note to Scots: please don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m referring to, it gets quite tiresome).

  39. It will be interesting to observe the reaction of all those critics of US foreign military intervention , if Trump says-OK-you sort it all out now. We aren’t paying for it any more.

    THere are so many uncertainties, and Trade looms large for us right now, but it is on the Foreign Policy front that so much is at stake.

  40. @Hawthorn: Trump mentioned explicitly during the campaign that the UK would have priority in any future trade deal negotiations. And Trump he didn’t say he wouldn’t make deals at all, but rather that he would put “America first” in any future deals. Going back to what I said before though, I don’t think Jaguar and Land Rover cars, or Scotch whiskey are a major concern to the working class voters in the Midwest who elected Trump. His focus will be rather on the cheap imports from China and Mexico.

  41. COLIN

    I think Putin has pretty much won in the Middle East now.

  42. PETEB

    @”Ordinary people around the world are fed up with it all.”

    That seems to emerge from both Brexit & Trump. The “left behind” vote -the cry from the silent majority who have had enough .

    So what chance of Marine Le Pen for French President?

  43. Hawthorn

    I am not a supporter of UKIP other than I support the vote to leave the UK. I was talking about people like my family and friends, most of whom are middle or upper middle class Tories. I would not have voted for Trump but now he has won I am sure that antipathy will reduce significantly, especially if he appears friendly to the UK which so far he has done. For myself I am looking on with interest to see what he does. As always you forget that the Right and Tories in particular are very pragmatic.

  44. HAWTHORN

    Presumably the Political Left will be elated if/when Trump stops all that nasty “intervention”.

  45. MBRUNO

    He also said that Mexico would pay for a wall.

    If you take the risk of analysing his words with logic, the get-out is “any”. That implies “if” there are any trade deals.

  46. COLIN

    “That seems to emerge from both Brexit & Trump. The “left behind” vote -the cry from the silent majority who have had enough .
    So what chance of Marine Le Pen for French President?”

    Exactly the sort of points I was making in my 9.53 summary of the nights events. As usual we agree.

  47. PeteB

    Agreed.

    “And on a brighter note, England did well on the first day of the Test Match!”

    Yes very well done Joe & Moin.

  48. COLIN

    My number one worry about Clinton was that she would put the US in a position where they would accidentally shoot down a Russian jet. That at least is less likely under Trump if he means what he says.

    All Putin needs now is a Le Pen presidency and he can send in the tanks with little fear.

  49. Does the insurgency move on to france? Germany is too conformist

  50. The biggest danger in Trump’s victory is that people conflate two totally separate elements:

    1. Political swings among voters (against immigration, against free trade etc)

    2. Trump’s own attitude to the democratic process (he has quite openly stated over the past few weeks that he would not accept or concede any result in which he loses)

    Element 1 is, as much as it pains me to say it, a legitimate position for people to take, and if they choose to adopt it by democratic means then the rest of us have to just accept it. We wait until the next election and try again, just like any losers would do.

    Element 2 though is far worse, because it means Trump will only accept democratic decisions when they are in his favour, and defy them when they are not. This is something that no one, of any political stripe, should ever accept under any circumstances. You should never, for any reason, be voting for someone who, in advance, announces that they will refuse to concede any elections they lose.

    As many people have pointed out, if Trump had lost 2016 and refused to concede it would be fairly harmless because he would have limited power to cause havoc. What happens if Trump loses 2020 and refuses to concede? Or if he got a second term and refused to leave in 2024? What would he do to the world if he felt cornered and unable to get his own way by legitimate means? What does his track record say about the actions he would take?

    (There was a period of time in Nixon’s troubles where the outside world was unsure if he would resign, but to his credit he accepted the game was up and did so in an orderly fashion for the good of his country. Nixon had also previously conceded defeat against Kennedy, despite some evidence of vote rigging. It is extremely unlikely that Trump would ever do these things, he has no track record of ever “taking one for the team”.)

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