I’ve got an article over on the YouGov website about the difficulty on polling on the Brexit financial settlement (or “Brexit divorce bill” as the more Eurosceptic elements of the press tend to call it). Brexit is obviously a very complicated issue – the Brexit deal will almost inevitably dominate the next year of British politics, yet the complexities of it mean it’s very hard to ask about until there’s actually a deal on the table.

The financial settlement between Britain and the EU should, on the face of it, be one of the more simple issues. On the face of it you might expect it to be fairly simple to ask people what sort of financial settlement the public would think was reasonable and what sort of settlement would have the public thinking Theresa May has struck a poor deal. In fact such questions give us a very poor guide, simply because most people are not particularly good at comprehending very large numbers.

If you ask a question about what a reasonable price is for, for example, a pair of shoes, it should work very well. Everyone knows roughly what shoes cost, and know the value of £10 or £30 or £100. The same does not apply for government spending – £50 billion is an unfathomably large amount of money… but then, so is £20 billion, or £10 billion or £5 billion. Most of us don’t really have any good yardstick for judging just how big or small these huge numbers are, nor whether they are a good or bad deal for Britain.

Nevertheless, if you ask people about a financial settlement people will still express opinions. Back in August there was an ICM/Guardian poll that found 41% of people though a £10bn settlement would be acceptable, up from just 15% in April. This seemed like a startling rise, but as both ICM and the Guardian cautioned, it could just be the way the question was worded. In April ICM first asked about the lower figure of £3bn, but in August £10bn was the lowest they offered.

This seemed like a more plausible explanation to me, but just to be sure we tested it at YouGov. We used a split sample – one half of the respondents got a grid of three questions asking about settlements of £5bn, £10bn and £20bn. The other half of the sample got a grid of three questions asking about settlements of £25bn, £50bn and £75bn.

On the first bank of questions 38% thought £5bn would be acceptable, 18% thought £10bn would be acceptable, 11% thought that £20bn would be acceptable. Looking at the other half of the sample, 29% thought that £25bn was acceptable, 9% thought that £50bn was acceptable, 6% thought that £75bn would be acceptable (full tabs are here.)

Taken as a whole we get the the rather perverse finding that while support generally falls as the size of the settlement increases, £25 billion is far more acceptable to the public than £20 billion. This is nonsense of course, and the reason is simple enough – people take their cues from the question itself. In the first half of the sample, £5bn was the lowest amount asked about, £20bn the largest amount, and many respondents presumably took this as an implication that £5bn was a low settlement, £20bn a high one. For the second half of the sample £25bn was the lowest figure asked about, so many respondents presumably took the implication that this was a low settlement. Whether people said a sum was acceptable or not was less about the actual number, more about whether the question implied that it was a low or high figure.

The point is that questions about what level of “divorce bill” will be acceptable to the public don’t really tell us much. People don’t have any good way of telling what is a good or bad deal and are really just expressing their unsurprising preference for a smaller settlement. When (or if) Britain and the EU do finally agree on a sum, it won’t be so much the particular figure that determines whether the public see it as a victory or a sell-out, but whether the media and political class present it to them as a good or bad deal.

Meanwhile, lastest GB voting intention figures this week are below – both show the parties pretty much neck-and-neck, neither show any obvious movement:
YouGov/Times (12th-13th Sept) – CON 41%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 3%(-1) (tabs)
ICM/Guardian (8th-10th Sept) – CON 42%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 4%(+1) (tabs)


713 Responses to “Brexit Bills and latest voting intention”

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  1. @Queen Syzygy

    “The brexiness is rather off-putting when unleavened by Thorium and space elevators. I was worried about you so I have kept checking in … but given the spate of attacks post-GE, I’ve been giving the site a bit of a wide berth. Glad to know that you hadn’t been run over or snatched by aliens.”

    ———

    Yep, with more and more things gradually ruled out of bounds, naturally people will settle on what’s left, i.e. Brexit. I’m glad you’re still around! I have recently found a new thing to geek out over: the efforts of a certain Elon Musk, and his attempts to pursue hyper loops, speed up adoption of renewables and to build a colony on Mars. He really should get into Thorium though…

  2. RJW

    We appreciate what this poll is saying but most of us don’t get excited because it’s just one poll set against the the last few which have both parties pretty neck and neck .
    It may have had slightly more relevance if we were close to another GE but as far as I can see TM is likely to be PM for at least another two years this might change after we actually leave the EU but again this may not be because of a GE more likely is a new appointed PM it will really depend on how we leave the EU and what trade deals are being struck.
    Unless of course anyone can come up with a realistic reason why there would be a GE this or next year rather than the usual fanciful scenario’s that appear from time to time on here.

  3. Hi Turk
    I wasn’t getting over excited about this single poll, just pointing up Trev’s tendency to turn a good tune for the reds into a rousing anthem for the blues!

  4. @ My Lord Carfew (….. suits you)

    I was trying to explain hyper loop to LP members the other day… can’t say that they were overwhelmingly keen. It might have been the analogy with the vacuum system for cash, as seen in the old Woolworths and “Are you being served’. Mind, it was an easier concept than Bitcoin :)

  5. TURK
    “it will really depend on how we leave the EU and what trade deals are being struck”
    It’s the vice versa which has more relevance for the time being, and personally I find neck and neck quite stimulating – you can practically smell the talcum powder.

  6. Colin

    I”ts a hackneyed elision you imply-concern about “immigration” =dislike of “immigrants”=Racism.
    I think it simplistic, wrong-and very dangerous. Which won’t stop EU’s more fanatical supporters from constantly making it.”

    The blog to which I linked earlier says, among other things, this in the foreword: “The difference today is that racism and xenophobia have become tied into the state itself, making nativism the state ideology and ‘take back control’ its political culture.”

    Analysis of 134 race hate incidents has been done Most of them involved abuse but included physical assault, arson, death threats and stabbings. Most of the attacks were in England. People were singled out on the basis of the foreign language they spoke or presumptions about their right to be here. Children were abused. Fifty-one of the incidents included references either explicitly to the EU referendum and its outcome, or the messages that it conveyed (such as ‘taking the country back’).

    The report says this. ” It [racial violence] is the literal manifestation of the political climate which sustains it. As a report published by three groups set up after the referendum has suggested – istreetwatch, Worrying Signs and #postrefracism – the 645 racist incidents it collated on social media are indicative of the ‘increasing normalisation of xenoracist narratives and the manifestation of the “hostile environment principle”’…….We would go further. Almost every utterance shouted alongside a specific racist attack, is already a dominant ideological policy position. In other words, much of the racist abuse that has followed the referendum result has had its gestation within policy
    measures which express the same aim.”

    Given that there was an upsurge in race hate following the EU referendum (and terrorist attacks in London) do you doubt that it came from those voting “leave”?

  7. @Redrich – Marcus Aurelius

    Big fan of Aurelius. Funnily enough, I am reading Meditations at the moment. Always liked the Stoics.

    I think Churchill sums up democracy best, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

  8. New thread on the MORI poll

  9. @R Huckle @PeterW – A50 Revocability.

    The commission has set out what it believes is the legal position on A50
    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-648_en.htm

    When does the United Kingdom cease to be a member of the European Union?

    The EU Treaties cease to apply to the United Kingdom from the date of entry into force of the agreement, or within 2 years of the notification of withdrawal, in case of no agreement. The Council may decide to extend that period by unanimity.

    Until withdrawal, the Member State remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from membership, including the principle of sincere cooperation which states that the Union and all its Member States shall assist each other in carrying out the Treaty.

    What happens if no agreement is reached?

    The EU Treaties simply cease to apply to the UK two years after notification.

    Can a Member State apply to re-join after it leaves?

    Any country that has withdrawn from the EU may apply to re-join. It would be required to go through the accession procedure.

    Once triggered, can Article 50 be revoked?

    It is up to the United Kingdom to trigger Article 50. But once triggered, it cannot be unilaterally reversed. Notification is a point of no return. Article 50 does not provide for the unilateral withdrawal of notification.

    Their position is clear there can be no revocation by the UK.

    So the only way this could happen is if the UK applied to the ECJ for a ruling.

    Even if the Commission, UK, European Parliament and all 27 EU Members jointly agreed that A50 could be revoked – anyone (Sea Change and friends for instance!) could bring a case at the ECJ to determine whether this floated the Treaty of Lisbon and that A49 would have to be instigated.

  10. Carfrew,
    “You can’t explain about Quantum Mechanics, say, if you don’t understand it very well yourself.”
    At least when I was at school doing A level physics, quantum mechanics did not get a mention. So no need to explain it. At university I was inclined to disagree with the explanation given, but hey. It isnt understood, though people have equations which give testable results showing they express some kind of reality.

    In general, my premise stands: I dont need to understand QM to teach A level physics. All I need to do is have a thorough grasp of the A level syllabus.(not that i have any intention of teaching)

    “actually, the idea is doubly flawed, in that it doesn’t matter so much if you’re good at communicating if the school is very selective and creaming off the top pupils, as even if the teacher is not much cop at communicating it doesn’t matter so much as the pupils will teach themselves from the textbooks anyway.”
    Indeed, and might actually listen anyway because they are interested. I have always thought different schools have a niche for different types of teacher. However, if I had a good knowledge of physics and was also a good communicator, would I opt for the easy and indeed possibly more rewarding life of a grammar environment where I would be welcomed by the kids, or one where I had to work to get their attention? The latter leads to burnout.

    In general you keep saying private schools have all sorts of advantages: of course they do, thats what people are paying for.

  11. @Danny

    “At least when I was at school doing A level physics, quantum mechanics did not get a mention. So no need to explain it. At university I was inclined to disagree with the explanation given, but hey. It isnt understood, though people have equations which give testable results showing they express some kind of reality.”

    ———

    Yes, this is hopeless. I already said, you frequently had to go beyond A level for Oxbridge. Quantum Mechanics was just an example, I could just as easily have said partial differential equations which is some considerable way beyond A level but might well be done by Oxbridge candidates.

    So your point doesn’t stand at all. Especially because you are ALSO ignoring my OTHER point, that in the exams and interview you may well ALSO be given questions testing your raw intellect which you can’t prepare for and which may exceed the abilities of some A level teachers.

  12. @SYZYGY

    “I was trying to explain hyper loop to LP members the other day… can’t say that they were overwhelmingly keen. It might have been the analogy with the vacuum system for cash, as seen in the old Woolworths and “Are you being served’. Mind, it was an easier concept than Bitcoin :)”

    ———–

    Oh God, good luck explaining bitcoin!! Haven’t tried explaining hyperloop but I suppose alongside explaining the problem of air resistance and how it increases as the square of velocity, there’s also trying to persuade as to the value of the greater speed.

    According to Musk, who thinks we’ll need to tunnel a lot more to handle increased traffic density in future, that if you tunnel then in the process it effectively creates sufficient of a seal so you can do the vacuum without much extra effort.

    What’s interesting about Musk is how he attacks these problems. To him, the critical issue is reducing the cost of tunnelling by an order of magnitude. He has a similar approach to energy: it’s critical to slash the cost of batteries, hence the gigafactories. And with colonising Mars the critical thing is slashing the cost of space travel, hence the reusable tickets that land back on the launchpad.

  13. carfrew,
    “I could just as easily have said partial differential equations ”
    No, that was A level and yes QM did appear in oxbridge entrance. But that is only a small proportion of secondary school staff time 6/7 of teaching would not involve this, so assuming the school was big enough most staff would not need this. Or not at all if it did not have a sixth form.

    I also heard comments that making the leaving age later was bad too. Just led to more uncooperative kids needing to be entertained by teachers who didnt want to be babysitting troublemakers.

    “So your point doesn’t stand at all. Especially because you are ALSO ignoring my OTHER point, that in the exams and interview you may well ALSO be given questions testing your raw intellect which you can’t prepare for and which may exceed the abilities of some A level teachers.”

    I dont really understand. My point was that private schools get better results, and the various points you raise about better resourcing to my mind explain why. I never claimed their kids are more intelligent, but they get more from them. However, passing exams always includes an element of gaming the system. Traditional IQ tests are criticised on the grounds you can practice doing them and improve your score, but are you actually cleverer? In this context exam technique also includes how well you perform in an interview, present yourself, all that stuff about being a rounded candidate, how well you fit in with the university ethos.

    The statistics say private schools get a disproportionately high number of oxbridge places, and disproportionate number of university places. This is well beyond any bias from taking scholarship bright kids. I conclude that the kids they get otherwise have similar raw intelligence, so they are getting better results from them.

    If they are doing this, then all the state kids are being failed to the same degree. Its a question of money. And when money becomes limited, do you choose to concentrate spending on the bright ones, or indeed the dim ones, or to spread it equally. Or even without making it a question of money, separate the kids by intelligence into different schools with different curricula.tailored to their intelligence and life expectations.

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