There are two new voting intention polls in Sunday’s papers – ICM for the Sun on Sunday and Opinium for the Observer.

ICM in the Sun on Sunday have topline figures of CON 41%(-1), LAB 42%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 4%(-1). Fieldwork was Tuesday to Thursday, and changes are from the ICM/Guardian poll a few days before. Changes are within the margin of error, but unlike ICM’s last poll it’s now Labour who are marginally ahead. Every single poll ICM have published since the general election has had Labour and the Conservatives within two points of each other.

Amongst other things ICM also asked about the Tory leadership. Only 23% of respondents think Theresa May should step down now, but only 35% think she should fight the next general election. A further 26% think she should go at some later later, either after Brexit (15%) or just before the election (11%). As with other polls, the public don’t seem to have much appetite for any particular successor as Tory lead – Boris Johnson leads, but on only 11%, ahead of Ruth Davidson on 6%. No tabs yet, but the Sun report is here

Secondly there is a new Opinium poll for the Observer. They too have a small Labour lead, with topline figures of CON 39%(-1), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 6%(+1). Changes are once again insignificant – the Tory leads in YouGov and ICM straight after the Brexit deal aren’t reflected in the latest polls, and were either just co-incidence, or a brief blip on the back of good publicity. The underlying trend remains one of stability, with Labour a tad ahead of the Conservatives and no obvious movement in support.

The full tabs for the Opinium poll are here and contain a lot of background questions. The Conservative party are seen as the most divided party – 47% think they are divided, 38% united. The Labour party are seen as united by 42% and divided by 40% – so while stories of Labour infighting are no longer constantly in the media in the way they were before the general election, the party are still seen as divided by much of the public (if not as divided as the Tories!). On the Tory leadership Opinium show a similar picture to ICM – 27% think she should go now, 28% think should should fight the next election, 23% think she should go later (either post-Brexit, or pre-election).

On the EU, Opinium found a negative reaction to Theresa May’s negotiations so far (though not as negative as in YouGov’s tracker – possibly because Opinium ask about May personally rather than the government as a whole, possibly because Opinium ask about approval rather than doing well or badly). 30% approve of how May has handled the negotiations so far, 45% of people disapprove. Opinium found 37% support for a second referendum once the terms had been agreed, 49% were opposed. For the type of Brexit, 39% of respondents would rather Britain remained in the single market (even if it meant freedom of movement continued), 33% would rather Britain stopped freedom of movement (even if it meant leaving the single market).

Finally, the Independent reports a BMG poll that has Remain with a ten point lead over Leave in a referendum vote tomorrow. This has, as ever, caused some over-excitement on social media.

My normal caveat on unusual and interesting polls is to wait and see if it is reflected in other polls. In this case we don’t have to wait, the BMG poll was actually conducted over a week ago (5th-8th Dec), meaning that we have already seen the results of other polls conducted after this one, and they don’t show any large movement towards Remain. The ICM/Guardian poll released earlier this week was conducted 8th-10th December, and had results of Remain 46%, Leave 43% – a Remain lead, but a far smaller one. YouGov’s regular tracker on whether people think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave was asked on 10th-11th Dec, and showed 44% think we are right to leave, 45% wrong to leave… again, typical of recent results.

The other caveat to consider is that the poll does not actually show any great shift in opinion directly from Leave to Remain, most of those voters are unchanged. The large Remain lead is almost wholly down to people who did not vote in the 2016 referendum. Many polls show those who did not vote in 2016 now saying they would vote remain, but the divide in this one is extreme. I am somewhat sceptical about leads that rely upon people who didn’t vote last time suddenly turning out to vote one way or another (particularly in polls that aren’t weighted by likelihood to vote!). While I am sure that there are some people who didn’t vote in 2016 who would now (those who have turned 18 and those who didn’t realise how close it would be), I suspect the sort of “non-voters” who turn up in opinion polls are rather more likely to vote than actual non-voters. The full tabs (and a measured write up from BMG) are here.

On any subject you feel strongly about it is easy to convince yourself that the polls showing what you’d like to see are somehow more accurate, and that polls showing less positive things are wrong. That would be an error. As ever, the best way of looking at a finding like this is look at all the polls, and consider the long term trend, rather than get overexcited about individual polls that put out unusual results. My opinion on whether Britain is changing its mind on Brexit is unchanged since I wrote about it here – if you look at the referendum VI questions from Survation and BMG, or the right/wrong decision question from YouGov, there does appear to be a genuine movement towards Remain since last year… but as yet it is only small, and the country remains quite finely divided between Remain and Leave.

595 Responses to “New ICM and Opinium polls”

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  1. Sam

    Thanks for the clarification.

  2. Oldnat

    My mother’s maternal people came from the Black Isle – Watson – from Cromarty, I assume. My mother was born in Co Fermanagh and like many “planted” folk followed the practice of trying to maintain the use of Scots. She might be up “at the screagh of dawn” rather than early.

    I am a County Down man whose accent has been likened more than once to those in Inverness.

    I expect you know that to “trail the coat” arises from the practice at Irish fairs of belligerent men seeking fights literally trailing their coats while issuing the challenge: “Who’ll step on the tail of me coat?”

    A “Donnybrook” has made it into the vocabulary as a consequence of this behaviour.

  3. Sam

    We may be related!

    I didn’t know that origin of “trail the coat”. Thanks, I always love to learn more about language.

  4. “Having said that, in the case of Brexit it was the old folk who were the revolutionaries rebelling against the establishment. In the 70s referendum, all political parties, most of the press, the BBC, business and the unions were all united in wanting to stay in the EEC. This time round they even wheeled out the Pope and Obama as well.”

    That’s not true. The age imbalance wasn’t as marked in the first referendum as the second, but it was there, and it was the other way.

    Those who were older in ’75 were more likely to be “Yes”. It was the younger generation who were then, and (as the older generation in the second referendum) are now, most eurosceptic.

    Read into that what you will.

    FWIW I think there’s something in the view that those who were kids during WW2 have a particular national myth shared by neither there parents nor their children, and that this was a factor in both 75 and 16.

  5. Some may not have seen this tweet from John Redwood MP

    ‘Little Red White & Blue Riding Hood escaped & ran to the local woodman to help. He slipped him an instant sleeping pill & got the money back the wolf had seized. He was sent far away so could no longer demand money w/ legal menaces of anyone or anything in red white & blue land’

    Kind people will send a donation to an appropriate charity, to prevent such degradation of the OIP (once important people) in future.

  6. @OLDNAT
    Possibly because [lowland] Scotland was never “subsumed” into England in the way that the Gaeltacht was subsumed into Scotland and earnest attempts made to extirpate the Irish tongue?

    Interesting perspective and probably not far off the truth. Thank you.

    Nevertheless I still think it is an oddity relative to other national movements.

    it is true that Scots essentially disappeared as a credible language of respectable society after the Union of the Crowns. In that sense, even if the nation was not, the language was “subsumed”.

    I don’t think anyone could argue that “Standard Scots English” is anything other than London English with a bit of token dialect. On a continuum from Scots to London English, perhaps 95% or more to the right.

    It may be that there is less politics here than elsewhere as it was a king and court of Scottish origin in London that perpetrated this “consolidation” rather than an imperialistic neighbour. But even so it still surprises me that there is no attempt at a language revival. We see more attempt to push the Irish at the tourists in areas that it was never spoken historically than to present Scots.

  7. You can substitute Scottish Gaelic for Irish, as otherwise some might think I’m making a point that I wasn’t seeking to make, at least in that argument.


    Am I your uncle?

  9. Peter W

    “it is true that Scots essentially disappeared as a credible language of respectable society after the Union of the Crowns”

    No, it isn’t., and wasn’t even if you meant to say the Union of the Parliaments in 1707, rather than the first Union of the Crowns in 1603 – though from your later comment

    “I don’t think anyone could argue that “Standard Scots English” is anything other than London English with a bit of token dialect”

    You clearly don’t talk to many linguists!

    However, you do confirm my previous comments that opinions on language are frequently generated by political prejudice, which you display copiously.

    “there is no attempt at a language revival”

    I gather you don’t read much about Scots language either?

    I’m probably less concerned than Davwel about the language changes in my native NE, as language is a dynamic entity shaped by the decisions that people make about word usage, pronunciation etc, in response to the various influences that they experience.

  10. Uncle Sam!

    Great to meet up with you. now where’s that £20 that Great Grandad lent your bit of the family to flee to Ireland?

  11. I’m no fan of Brexit but would make it an exception in the case of Jaap Stam. Please leave my club ASAP.

  12. OLDNAT

    By my “bit of the family” do you mean Mary of Dungloe. If so she went off to Amerikay a long time ago. I know not where. Do you know Teresa from Belfast?

    We did not “flee” to Ireland. We, the “scum of the earth” went to seek our fortune and to save our lives. We would have been hanged by Jams had we stayed.

    My aunt Minny gave me £20 onct. I drank it all along with three farms. Can you send me another – twenty pounds, not a farm, please

  13. ?

  14. The reason Irish and Scots Gaelic persists, however tenuously, is that they are seen as parts of the respective cultures worth preserving. These modes of culture exist because those who use them are comfortable in their use, implying native virtues in the use.

    Possibly, if Gaelic were to die completely in Ireland and Scotland the standard of the written and spoken English would drop to that obtaining in England

    If the Gael is finally killed off (though that will not happen) s/he who is unique cannot be revived

  15. Sam,
    Me too , mother and father from Fermanagh, me born there but exiled in Co Down these past 30 years. Still go down, twice a month.

  16. “”I don’t think anyone could argue that “Standard Scots English” is anything other than London English with a bit of token dialect. On a continuum from Scots to London English, perhaps 95% or more to the right.”

    Well I too will argue against this, besides Old Nat.

    Maybe on actual words 95% are the same for Home Counties v Scotland speakers. But on how the words are sounded, the sentences are constructed and spoken, there`s an enormous difference such that a linguist would need just one short sentence to tell a speaker`s background .

    There`s also no nod to language history in Peter`s view. Home Counties and London dialects have been evolving rapidly, much faster than for most parts of the rest of Britain – that`s why I spoke of evolved RP.

    Standard Scots and Standard Northern may have picked up some of the new words, but very few of the sounds old or new. Like long a in bath has only a few followers north of the English Midlands, mainly in “higher” social classes.

    That said, British regional dialects have had changes, for instance the rolled back-of-throat r of Lancashire seems to be on its way out, so special that the linguists had a special symbol for it.

  17. Sam

    Re the Wings Scots indy poll (and there will be lots of other questions and answers to come over the Yules) –

    It looks a little more complex than the papers reprinting the PA story (and surprisingly Number Cruncher) would suggest.

    It seems that there was another “more conventional” indy question asked – though it is only identified in the tables as “Would vote in another Scottish referendum”.

    It’s incomplete, as we’ve only seen the tables for the EU/indy question with DKs excluded.

    However, those limited numbers show a mere 3% increase in the Yes vote, compared to the 6% rise, when the EU is factored in.

    A large part of that difference appears to lie with No voters on the “conventional” question, who don’t know how they would vote if staying in the EU was the consequence of an indy Scotland.

    I can understand that lack of certainty. For many Scots remaining in a UK that remained in the EU would be highly desirable – but we don’t always get to choose between alternatives that are both acceptable!

    Wait to see the tables would seem to be the sensible course (just as not squandering another £20 on the wastrels of the family is).

  18. @Oldnat,

    *Sigh*. All I was pointing out was that the old “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy” saw just isn’t true. Or at least isn’t universally true.

    I am of course no philologist, but I doubt that even the most eminent of their number would argue that Basque is a dialect, that American English is a language, that the Basque country has an army or navy, or that the United States lacks such.

    But of course rather than gently accept the point I’m making, you have to imply in your usual prickly way that I am some kind of dunce.

  19. Neil A

    Since even Franco recognised that the Basque language wasn’t a debased form of Castilian, as he claimed Catalan was, that’s hardly news!

    The discussion was about the point at which a “dialect” is considered a “language” – and the political determinants and consequences of the differing views of that point.

    Am I right in thinking that you had never come across Wechstein’s aphorism before? If it was new to you, and you imagined it was meant literally, then I apologise.

    It is, however, in such common usage among those interested in language and its variants that I took it to be common knowledge.

    On reflection, it seems quite likely that those brought up to see “their” speech variant as “normal” and all others as dialects might never have come across it.

    Actually English, as used in America (which is what the world learns) has several dialects. Are these dialects of global English – or dialects within American English.

    Again the response to that question betrays political attitudes, since there is no definitive philological boundary.

  20. If suddenly Scandinavia (with the exception of Finland) united, would Swedish, Norvegian, Danish and Icelandic be separate languages or dialects of the same language?

    Is Swiss German (the one they speak in villages) a separate language or a dialect?

    Is the Bukovinan Hungarian a separate language or a dialect of Hungarian (it’s actually a 15th century version of Hungarian with a lot of adopted words).

    Is the Arabic language of the Qu’aran the same as the official Arabic language of many countries, yet the teacher has to tell the pupils word for word what it actually means, or a dialect or a root of dialects?

    The discussion is about a socially constructed category, so not really a scientific question (although JVS’s points are quite relevant – language is not part of the superstructure, but the opinion about it is) – linguistics know it pretty well what they are talking about, but it won’t help in t his.

  21. Laszlo

    Then there’s the question of the common indo-European roots.

    Since all the descendant languages can just be reasonably considered to be just dialects of that, we could construct a political union on the basis of shared phi logical inheritance, in which BBC English was placed in its proper category of a sub regional dialect within a regional language.

    OK, the Finns, Magyars, Basques and some others would have to be excluded, but that’s a small price to pay for linguistic purity.

  22. Oldnat


    Language belongs to the interaction of humans with nature. The underlying logic of languages are quite universal (the variations of Subject-Verb-Object versus S-O-V is a possible classification that avoids all these things about language families, and then the Irish shares common features with Singalese).. So then Irish and Sinhalese are dialects of the same language, so are Russian and By Varian (flexibility of word order), while modern English is a dialect of Chinese, with some influence of the languages at its neibourhood).

  23. “and by varian” -“and Hungarian” …

  24. oldnat

    “I apologise.”

    Blimey !!! Stop the press…… they’d never allow that in Quibble by the way.


    “bored game”

    I give you my bestist play-on-spelling-and-punctuation-joke for crissmuss:

    I knew a bloak once who died on a six week, around the world cruise.

    He fell over, bored.

    BOOM BOOM !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. “Cam” is, I believe, Gaelic for Sam.

  26. @ laszlo

    Thanks for your reply. I did reply but something triggered so still in moderation- so just a quickie to say your reply made sense!

  27. Laszlo

    “If suddenly Scandinavia (with the exception of Finland) united, would Swedish, Norvegian, Danish and Icelandic be separate languages or dialects of the same language?”


    Iceland is not part of Scandinavia


    Neither is finland

  28. This is from Ullans

    “Ulster-Scots is often confused with Ulster ‘dialect’ for a very good reason: Ulster-English dialect contains many Scots words and pronunciations when compared to the English spoken in England or the south of Ireland. From outside, all Ulster speech can sound very Scottish, particularly the ‘accent’ in Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Donegal. Ulster-Scots, however, is more than Ulster dialect. It is a living version of the Lowland Scots language which has recognition as a traditional, regional language of Europe.

    How then can we tell the difference between somebody who is talking Ulster-Scots and somebody who is using Ulster-English dialect? The easiest way to identify Ulster-Scots is by listening for a number of ‘speech markers’. These are the most common words used by Ulster-Scots speakers and not by speakers of Ulster English. For example, the Scots words thon, dander and wee (‘that’, ‘stroll’, and ‘little’) are used every day by the great majority of folk throughout Ulster. Although they are Scots rather than English words, they have simply been borrowed into Ulster-English dialect.

    On the other hand, words like nicht, cannae and gye (‘night’, ‘can’t’ and ‘very’) are very common markers of Ulster-Scots speech. They are also markers of Ulster-Scots literature, if one wishes to distinguish this from Ulster-English ‘dialect’ writing.

    It is important to remember that almost all Ulster-Scots speakers will use the markers only in each other’s company. When speaking to an outsider, in public, or to a professional person such as a teacher, minister or doctor, Ulster-Scots speakers will switch to Standard English, or – more often – to Ulster-English dialect, which is regarded as more acceptable.”

  29. Swedish is spoken in parts of Finland, where it has equal status as a language… and in Estonia.

  30. LASZLO

    @” variations of Subject-Verb-Object versus S-O-V ”

    This ordering, plus the other variants VSO , VOS & OVS ( this found in one language only so far) is discussed at length in Daniel Everett’s brilliant book “Language , The Cultural Tool”, in which he dissects & refutes Chomsky’s “nativist” , “underlying linguistic structure” ideas.

    If you haven’t read it , I thoroughly recommend it Laszlo , particularly given your remark that “Language belongs to the interaction of humans with nature. “

  31. LASZLO

    @”would Swedish, Norvegian, Danish and Icelandic be separate languages or dialects of the same language?”

    Anyone addicted to Scandi TV series ( as we are!) knows the answer to that question, as they watch Danes, Norwegians & Swedes communicating easily with each other by using their own language .:-)

  32. COLIN

    I think you’ll find that the actors are – like us – just using the sub-titles to know what’s going on.

  33. CROFTY


    It is having to read them that makes one more aware of the different languages being used I think.

    Swedish is very lilting & gentle , with cadences almost “Welsh” like .

    Danish is very gutteral & hard, with ends of words seeming to disappear in a sort of swallow.

    In The Bridge I like the occasions when either Saga or Kim suddenly look puzzled because the other has used a colloquialism, and have to ask what it means.

  34. ……………Saga & Martin !!. Kim is the name of the actor :-)

  35. Parts of Tennessee and Virginia are speakers of Ulster Scots and those speakers help to keep alive this version of Lowland Scots, a recognised regional language.

  36. Still, we now have countable, measurable evidence from grammar and to some extent vocabulary to support an important conclusion: the Scotch-Irish contribution significantly outweighs that from Southern Britain and appears much more responsible for the distinctiveness of Appalachian English today. To the extent that Southern Appalachian and East Tennessee speech differ from most of the rest of the country, this is more than anything else attributable to the language brought by Scotch-Irish emigrants and spread through the rest of the population in settlement times.


    Just thought I’d mention that Icelandic is apparently 15th century Norwegian. Because Iceland was settled by Norwegian exiles in the 15th century, and contact between Iceland and the rest of the world was severely interrupted by the mini Ice Age in the 15th, 16 and 17th centuries.

    Also Icelandic has changed little since then – they can still read the old sagas with little difficulty.

  38. Whatever language you are reading this in, can I wish everyone a happy Christmas and all the best for 2018. I hope you all get something of what you wish for in the year to come, although ideally we could do with some further polls so we can achieve an equitable balance of what everyone actually wants.

    It’s (mostly) been a pleasure to participate on UKPR for another year, so thanks also to AW for hosting the site.

    All the best,


  39. Colin

    Thanks for reminding to Everett’s work. It is really interesting, and his critique of Chomsky’s universal grammar is spot on (his falsification argument is a bit suspect, but I’m saying this mainly because of the falsification theory itself – as it cannot be falsified).

    As to my claim about human-nature relationship – it was against the whole politicization of linguistics (for my shock Marr’s theory seems to dominate quite a few departments in US universities) – as human interaction with nature is societal, it is obviously social, but still not part of the superstructure.

  40. @Toby – “Also Icelandic has changed little since then – they can still read the old sagas with little difficulty.”

    That’s just as well, given thenumber of cruise ships now stopping off there.

  41. Colin

    As to the structuring by verb-subject-object and it’s variants, if you look at what I wrote was tongue in cheek (maybe should have done it differently) – putting two unrelated languages in the same group gives it away (I think). That’s actually the result of functional analysis that I commented on a few days ago here (while admitting that it did not belong here). So it was an example how such methodology wrong.

  42. Tony,

    Since quibbling is par for the course on here your dates for Icelandic settlement are a bit late.. Iceland was discovered in the 9th century and mostly settled in the 10th and 11th, with the saga events dating from that period although they were written down later.

    The settlement period was the climatic optimum when Greenland was comparatively green and the NE USA or according to some Newfoundland could be described in best holiday brochure fashion as “Vinland”

  43. Indeed, the first settlers in Iceland were Irish – priests and their followers in the 9th century. The early medieval Irish church is absolutely fascinating – their knowledge of agriculture, but also preserving ancient manuscripts, and managing societal relationships. Some attribute their achievements to the fact that they didn’t recognise the superiority of the pope.

  44. Merry Christmas to all here. I’m drinking scotch and opening presents already!

  45. Merry Christmas to everyone here.

  46. Laszlo.
    No Swiss German is more than a village language, it goes right to Parliament and spoken in cities. I am told by one of the few Swiss Germans that I know was born there ,that the first foreign language Swiss German children learn is German proper.
    No the swiss language that interests me is Romansch, where one valley speak that language different from the next one.

  47. Merry Xmas

  48. I do not celebrate xmas, just an ordinary day here.

    Bah humbug to those that are more enthusiastic.

    Thanks for all the posts over the last year that have informed and confounded me in equal measure.

  49. Wishing all UKPR commenters and lurkers, of every political stripe, a very happy festive season whether Christmas or any other celebration is your thing (or not!)

    I am celebrating my first ever with my (US-born) wife after four years of marriage thanks to visa woes. She was finally able to come to the UK and it’s been wonderful.

    Here’s hoping for many exciting polls in 2018 ;)

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