Yesterday I got a few questions about a new BMG poll in the Independent that had voting intentions in a hypothetical EU referendum tomorrow at 52% remain, 48% leave. The Indy wrote this up with a pretty hyperbolic “Majority want to stay!!!”. The full results – along with a fair more reasonable and caveated write-up by BMG themselves – are here.

So, what is the bigger picture in terms of attitudes to Brexit, and is there any sign of people changing their minds?

I should start by pointing out that how people would vote in a hypothetical referendum tomorrow is not necessarily the same question as what people think should happen now (perhaps surprisingly!). If you ask people what should happen now, a clear majority say Britain should leave the EU. If you ask people how they’d vote in a referendum now, they are split down the middle between Remain and Leave. The difference appears to be because there is a chunk of people who personally favour remain, but think the government has a duty to leave following the referendum. Neither of these is necessarily a “better” measure of public opinion, opinion is best understood by looking at both: that is, the public are split equally on what they’d prefer, but some remainers think that the referendum means Brexit should go ahead anyway.

If we do look specifically at how people would vote in a referendum tomorrow, there is comparatively little change since 2016. Most Remain voters would still vote Remain, most Leave voters would still vote Leave. People who did not vote at all in 2016 tend to split in favour of Remain, meaning that the overall figure tends to be around a 50-50 split. Polls, of course, typically have a margin of error of around 2 or 3 points. This means if the actual position is a 50-50 split, then normal sample variation will inevitably spit out some results that are 52-48, or 48-52, or whatever. This is the unavoidable result of normal statistical variance, however, it does mean that now and again there will be a poll showing Remain with a small lead, which pro-Remain sorts will get wrongly overexcited about.

In terms of a trend, my impression is that there is some small degree of movement against Brexit… but it is very small. It is hard to discern a trend from questions asking the referendum question because they are infrequent, different companies use different methods and there may be different “house effects”. BMG have probably asked it more regularly than any other company, and looking at just their figures (in the link above) there is a slight trend towards Remain.

YouGov regularly ask a question about whether Britain was right or wrong to vote to Leave the EU (below), which also shows a very tight race, but a slight trend towards Remain. Last year it tended to show slightly more people thought it was the right decision than the wrong decision, now it tends to hover around neck-and-neck.

In summary, there hasn’t been any vast sea-change in attitudes towards Brexit. Most people who voted Remain would do so again, most people who voted Leave would do so again. There is some movement back and forth, but it mostly cancels itself out. If you look at the two most frequently repeated questions, the BMG question on referendum VI and the YouGov question on whether the decision was right or wrong, then there does appear to be movement towards Remain… but it is as yet pretty small and pretty slow. In short, there are some “bregrets”, but not enough to really get excited about. If there is going to be a big change, I still wouldn’t expect to see it until the leaving deal (and the consequences of it) become a bit clearer.


428 Responses to “Bregrets, there are a few… but then again, too few to mention”

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  1. for most peeps, stuff like Osborne’s comments about Theresa May are what peeps might find a bit scary. Stuff about affordable housing and tuition fees isn’t quite as disturbing…

  2. Monochrome

    “The idea that ‘moderates’ are using Brexit to destabilise Corbyn which is forcing Corbyn supporters to be more Brexit friendly strikes me as a likely cover story from email briefings, just to provide more cover for Corbyn.”

    All views expressed are my own and I take full responsibility for them. Should add that I don’t write email briefings.

  3. LONDON LEAVER

    @”FWIW, I think there is a huge generational divide about what is, or might be, considered fair and equitable, and I think many of us can readily see this play out in our own families”

    I tend to agree.

    @”I simply cannot understand is that recent government policy has continually promoted austerity as a necessity, so that “our children” will not have to clean up the mess. Unless the hatcheries of Huxley’s Brave New World have become a reality, lots of peoples’ children are already suffering rather badly.”

    AW doesn’t like us advancing or criticising party policy in detail-so will just say that today’s debt is serviced and repaid by future taxpayers if not addressed. -and to mention the trend on youth unemployment.

    None of which is meant to say that fiscal tightening has not caused problems & suffering-or to deny that there is a limit to how much of it people can absorb.

  4. keithp

    AfD was almost as successful as Corbyn’s labour at attracting non voters

  5. Allan Christie

    “Why Westminster is called the mother of all parliaments is beyond me?”

    As it should be! – since only historical illiterates and partisan bellicose UK Nats would say nonsense like that.

    What John Bright said in 1865 was that “England is the mother of Parliaments”.

    A bit overblown, certainly, but given that some partially representative assemblies had been created in some parts of the Empire, and that England was the dominant part of the UK of GB&I, not a wholly unreasonable claim.

    He didn’t claim that England was responsible for the creation of all Parliaments (that would have been obviously foolish, and Bright was, well, “bright”!)

  6. Valerie

    Thanks for your reply obviously touch a raw nerve if your reduced to criticising my lack of punctuation still if it makes you feel good go ahead everybody has the right to be pompous.
    By the way giving an example of a car mounting a pavement still doesn’t excuse ill mannered louts on bicycles or any other form of transport come to that there and no punctuation just for you.

  7. @ ALEC – agree, coming on day1 it seems Barnier has no interest in any form of compromise and is hoping we fold. May’s speech was little more than a shift in style not substance but a day1 slap in the face sends a message. With Merkel busy sorting out her own issues little chance of Mutti stepping in either.

    May is now pushing her luck with Leave voters. ICM poll had 48% “against” v 30% “for” regarding approval of her transition offer (still waiting for the official link, which I’ll post as soon as I see it – or tomorrow)

  8. Turk

    You included 2 full stops, and capitalised the first word after the first one.

    Some habits die hard, and it’s damn difficult to do something deliberately badly.

    (Well, that’s what I thought until the latest SLab leadership election stories. The question is – are they doing it deliberately, for some bizarre reason, or are they as useless as they appear?)

  9. S THOMAS

    “My dad had a maxi car built by british leyland. Ours was built on a Friday afternoon by a friend of Red Robbo”

    Wow, Leyland were so far ahead of the curve! I have some Tesco mushrooms in my fridge which the label says were grown by Dave Walker in Cambridgeshire, though sadly, it does not indicate when they were picked, so Tesco ahead on specific names, but Leyland win on timeframe.

    “i was always driving it into a garage for repairs.”

    Good to know it still functioned under duress, maybe the Germans could learn something here, before we ressurect BL and take them to the cleaners.

    “I would console myself by helping him make wine in the bath with a kit bought from Boots.”

    This hobby has made a huge comeback in the last few years; you can buy kits in Tesco, Wilko, and Lakeland. I understand quality has improved dramatically. There’s even a thing called Mysecco, so the Italians can eff off for a start.

    “To think we can return to those days with labour. They have my vote.”

    The penny’s finally dropped then…

  10. London Leaver

    “The penny’s finally dropped then”

    I suspect that there may be a relationship between that and the pound having dropped …..

  11. The claim about westminster is not ‘mother of all representative assemblies’ it is ‘mother of all parliaments’. Was there an Assembly called a Parliament before Westminster?
    I’m aware of ‘parlements’ in France but they were courts and I don’t think they’re that old.

  12. TOH

    A wee while ago you said that you did not care for further economic and social integration in the island of Ireland. Given that this process of integration arises out of the peace process why do you think that the DUP and the UK government are not in favour of it?

  13. OLDNAT

    Badadum tish! You’re not wrong, I despair at the negotiations, but it would appear that despite no coherent view, the govt are doing the (nearly) proverbial “In for a penny, in for €20bn (or more, if you like, honestly we haven’t got a clue… just let us know)…

  14. McDonnell (2)

    Of course my favourite thing about the seventies was how it ended in up in 1979. For every action there is,of course, a reaction.

    Good to see the Panto has started again with our favourite characters Davis and Barnier.Sadly the block audience booking by Mutte has been cancelled due to her coach taking a right turn at the bundestag junction and careering down an unknown road.

    All we need is for boris to appear in the wings for everybody to cry “behind you” to poor Double D.

  15. David Colby

    Are you seriously claiming to join the ranks of the historical illiterates?

    Indeed, if you are one of those insisting on adding “all” to Bright’s comment, as well as suggesting that he said “Westminster” and not “England” that probably propels you into the other category that I mentioned previously.

    Of course, you might just be quoting some person or other (please say who [or is that whom?) who made a ridiculous claim that Westminster was the “mother” of all parliaments that have a longer history than that of England.

    In the rich panoply of ignoramuses who become MPs and political journalists, there must be someone to whom you attribute the originality of that distortion of Bright’s original?

  16. “so will just say that today’s debt is serviced and repaid by future taxpayers if not addressed”

    ——–

    This is true. For balance it is also true that it may be serviced by future taxpayers if they make the debt worse.

  17. OLDNAT
    Wow you really hate being wrong.

  18. @Colin

    “I have always thought that for the vast majority of uncommitted voters “fairness” is a big driver of VI. Politicians who ignore the worst examples do so at their own cost.”

    ——-

    Interesting idea. Obviously there seem to be a lot of committed boomers for eggers who like to vote for a stacked deck, but maybe the undecided are more equitable…

  19. Actually the ICM polling isn’t the first on the Florence[1] speech, Survation covered it in their weekend poll done on Saturday 23rd:

    http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Mail-On-Sunday-September-23rd-Data-Tables-1.pdf#page=32
    (page 35 ff)

    The Prime Minister, Theresa May made a speech on Friday in Florence, Italy, about the UK government’s plans for the UK’s exit from the EU.
    Have you seen or heard anything about the Prime Minister’s speech?

    Yes 52% No 48% (coincidence)

    Subsequent figures are based only on the 610 repondents who said Yes and unsurprisingly these skew more male, older, Tory, (though not Scots) and slightly Remain.

    My opinion of the Prime Minister after her speech has …
    improved 19%
    worsened 25%
    not changed 55%
    (some political bias as always, but little between Remain and Leave voters)

    following the PM’s speech the UK will get a good Brexit deal for Britain
    more confident 22%
    less confident 27%
    no more or less confident 45%
    (lots of political bias but no R/L)

    Would describe the Prime Minister’s speech as…
    Hard Brexit 14%
    Soft Brexit 39%
    Neither 39%
    Don’t know 9%
    (More younger voters see it as Hard. Leave voters see it as soft, Remain as neither)

    So it’s clearly not a roaring success with the public, though not a disaster either. Grudging acceptance may the best May can hope for. It looks strange that the Party supported seems to have more influence on opinion that Brexit vote, but there may be complex factors counterbalancing each other. If opinion does move it may move in unpredictable ways because both sides are coalitions of views.

    [1] Incidentally has anyone come up with a reason why everyone treked over to Florence in the first place?

  20. David Colby

    Don’t be silly.

    I’m a historian (which is why I know about what John Bright said).

    However, it is the role of the historian to “correctly” interpret the past – hence I can’t possibly ever be wrong about the past (except in the view of another historian) – only about the present and the future! :-)

    We can happily (although readers may be less happy) debate the aspects of Bright’s observation which were wrong, but it seems more sensible just to accept that his original wording (in its context) was not unreasonable, but that more modern manifestations and distortions of his observation are so untrue as to be perfect soundbites for party political conferences.

  21. New thread on the new polls

  22. Andrew111,
    “The most shocking thing for me was that apparently 50% of Leave voters over 65 were prepared to see a member of their family lose their job if only they could have Brexit”

    What interests me is the psychology of this. Why the generation older than these voted to join the Eu, and why the generation younger voted to remain. The oldest people around now (say aged 100) were born 1917 and were 22 when WW2 began. Anyone 90 or below missed it, and only experienced it as a child.

    Basically, the generation which had to fight and experience the war voted to join the EU – I suggest because of their experiences. Younger people voted to remain because of their own experience of Europeans. The people who wanted to leave are those who lived through the experience of the Uk being declared the winner (but without experiencing the negative impact of the war itself), and then seeing many years of decline. Thus they feel cheated of their victory.

    Viewed this way, the demographic would be doomed to fade away as it ages. It is a group suffering a delusion of grandeur without the understanding of the price with which that grandeur had been bought or sustained in the past.

  23. Barbazenzero,
    “What does surprise me is that AfD support was highest in the former GDR, which would have been a very poor state indeed had not the FRG very generously agreed to an instant re-unification”

    Someone posted a link to a handy results page for the german elections. I notices that support for the AFD does not so much cluster in former GDR, but in saxony – just one corner of it. I asked somone about this, who suggested this in fact reflects more the traditional independent states which united to form germany, and that they still retain independent voting patterns. Which would seem to be born out by clustering of support for other parties in different regions. So maybe more accurate to think of support for AFD as akin to support for SNP. People might not want an independant scotland, but still voted for it because it is willing to bat uniquely for their region.

    Similarly, it has been argued that UKIP support was for many a protest vote against political domination by westminster elite and had little to do with the EU

  24. DANNY

    Thanks for those 2 posts.

    The localisation of AfD’s electorate is certainly interesting but they really have very little in common with the SNP, PC or any of the non-unionist NI parties: The D for Deutschland rather gives it away. I suspect it’s more likely that that they’re aiming to get control of Saxony first as a base on which to build and showing that far right parties are far left ones are not that different in practice.

    I think you’re pretty much spot on in the post to ANDREW111.

  25. @BZ “What does surprise me is that AfD support was highest in the former GDR, which would have been a very poor state indeed had not the FRG very generously agreed to an instant re-unification. Biting the hand which feeds you comes to mind.”

    It’s not surprising to me at all. The East German’s identity had been squashed for a couple of generations during the Soviet occupation. To suddenly be confronted with mass immigration without any discussion with the voters is likely to cause resentment.

    It’s the same with the other Eastern European States, they are not keen at all on seeing a recently regained identity suddenly under threat (whether that threat is actual or perceived)

  26. COLIN

    “o will just say that today’s debt is serviced and repaid by future taxpayers”

    That’s not really the case at the aggregate level.

    Government debt isn’t really debt. It’s a hidden pension payment. It’s actually savings that are required because we have outsourced the pension system to private companies. So the population is ‘in credit’ to that amount, and receives an income. That income is then spent which is how taxpayers earn an increased income on which tax is collected.

    Get rid of the debt, you get rid of pensions and you have a lot of starving pensioners. Plus an awful lot less income circulating so people earn a lot less.

    The mistake made is the idea that debt is ‘paid off’. It never is. For the same reason your £20 note (which is a 0% perpetual bearer bond – i.e. debt) is never paid off. But the note is replaced regularly with a newly printed one and the old one is burned. The same applies to government gilts.

    The whole ‘debt’ debate is a psychological framing issue that exploits the average person’s fear of the word ‘debt’ and their lack of understanding how bank accounting works. Credit is the word for debt in accounting for banks, yet most people get excited when they are ‘in credit’. Yet that actually means ‘in debt’.

    Government is in debt *to us*, in the same way that a bank is in debt to you if you have a positive balance. We-the-people have a positive balance with the government in our pension system. So when people go around saying they need to get rid of government debt what they actually mean is they want to take your pension away from you.

    And people fall for it. Because they are hard of accounting. It’s a very nasty trick.

    Here’s a little thought experiment I did that shows that government ‘debt’ is entirely sustainable even in an economy with zero GDP – https://medium.com/modern-money-matters/the-bond-economy-d339993a4906

  27. “[1] Incidentally has anyone come up with a reason why everyone treked over to Florence in the first place?”

    She didn’t want to come back to Halifax.

    Probably because somebody finally told her that she did her manifesto launch in the building at the bottom of the valley right next to the place where they clean up the bodies of austerity victims after they’ve thrown themselves off the flyover 500 ft above.

    We have steep sided valleys up here.

  28. Danny: Basically, the generation which had to fight and experience the war voted to join the EU – I suggest because of their experiences. Younger people voted to remain because of their own experience of Europeans. The people who wanted to leave are those who lived through the experience of the Uk being declared the winner (but without experiencing the negative impact of the war itself), and then seeing many years of decline. Thus they feel cheated of their victory.

    Viewed this way, the demographic would be doomed to fade away as it ages. It is a group suffering a delusion of grandeur without the understanding of the price with which that grandeur had been bought or sustained in the past.

    Yes, it is my generation – born mid 50s and 10 years either side. Not that I am a Leaver myself. And away from here, I have often pointed to the difference between my father’s generation and mine as being very relevant to the EU question – more or less in the terms you use. Dad’s generation saw active service, Mum even suffered slight malnutrition due to rationing.

    I well remember at primary school on Friday afternoons, the other boys would always draw war pictures of one sort or another and we had a constant diet of WW2 war films on television continuing well into the 1980’s

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