Earlier this week NatCen released new polling on what people want from Brexit. The vast majority (90%) of people would like to keep free trade with the European Union. By 70% to 22% people would also like to limit the amount of EU immigration into Britain. Getting these two things together does not, of course, seem particularly likely. Asked if Britain should agree to keep free movement in exchange for keeping free trade, people are much more evenly split – 49% think we should, 51% think we should not (the full report is here).

Personally, I still think the best way of judging public opinion on Brexit is probably not to ask about individual policies, but to test some plausible scenarios – when it comes to it, people will judge the deal as a whole, not as the sum of its parts. YouGov released some updated polling on Brexit today that repeated that experiment, and again found that a Canadian type deal is likely to get the widest support from the public (that is, no freedom of movement and a more limited trade deal). The problem with a Norway type deal – retaining full free-trade with the EU in exchange for keeping freedom of movement and a financial contribution is that most of the public would see it as not respecting the result of the referendum.

I’ve written a much longer piece about the YouGov polling over on the YouGov site here, so I won’t repeat it all. One interesting bit though is looking at the possible outcomes of an early election, fought on the issue of Brexit. Now, I should start with some important caveats – hypothetical election questions are very crude tools. While I’m sure an early election would be dominated by the issue of Brexit, there would be other issues at play too, so a question like this will over emphasise the impact of Brexit policy. Nevertheless, it suggests some interesting patterns. YouGov asked how people would vote if Brexit could not pass a Parliamentary vote and instead an early election happened. In the scenarios the Conservatives and UKIP back Brexit (as they undoubtedly would) and the Lib Dems back a second referendum (as they’ve said they would). YouGov offered three different scenarios for Labour – one, where Labour back Brexit, two where Labour back only a “soft Brexit”, three where Labour also offer a second referendum. In all three cases the Conservatives would win easily – even the closest scenario gives them a twelve point lead. The interesting finding is the Lib Dems – in the two scenarios where they are the only party offering a second referendum their support goes up to 19% or 22% (if Labour also offer a referendum the Lib Dems don’t gain nearly so much). So, while these are hypothetical questions that need to be taken with a pinch of salt, it does suggest that appealing to those voters who really are set against Brexit could be a route back for the Lib Dems, especially if they are the lone “anti-Brexit” party. The full results for the YouGov polling are here.

Meanwhile Ipsos MORI released their monthly political monitor. In terms of voting intention the Conservative lead is halved from last month, but that is likely something of a reversion to the mean after a towering eighteen point lead last month. Topline figures are CON 42%, LAB 33%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 7%, GRN 3%. As ever, wait until you see the change echoed in other polls before concluding that the Conservative lead is waning.

Theresa May still enjoys a positive approval rating – 54% are satisfied with the job she is doing, 30% disatisfied. The new government also have a net positive rating at their handling of the economy so far – 51% think they’ve done a good job, 30% a bad job. Where the public are not convinced is on how the government are handling the biggest issue – only 37% think the government are doing a good job at handling Brexit, 48% think they are doing a bad job. Full details of the MORI poll are here.


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.


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What sort of Brexit?

I’ll be taking a break from the blog over the next week while I have a summer rest (I may pop in if something interesting happens, but I’m going to try not to), but before I go a quick pointer to something I wrote over on the YouGov website on what the public think about Brexit.

The type of Brexit the public want is a tricky subject to poll. It will obviously be one of the dominant issues in British politics over the next few years, yet we also know so little of it. We don’t yet know with any confidence what the government’s aims or negotiating position will be, nor what other European countries will be willing to offer (or what they will want in return). Public opinion will be one of the limitations upon the government’s negotiations so it’s certainly important, but it’s hard to measure it at this stage when people have so little information about what’s on offer.

We tried to explore the issue in two ways. The first was to ask whether people thought various things would be acceptable trade-offs in exchange for continued British free trade with the EU. That suggests that the public would accept having to follow some EU trade rules, could be persuaded on immigration (33% think freedom of movement is desirable anyway, 19% a price worth paying, 33% a deal-breaker), but would object to Britain making a financial contribution to the EU (41% think it would be fine or a price worth paying, 44% think it would be a deal-breaker).

However, taking things individually risks being a little misleading. When it comes to it a deal will be a package of measures and will be judged as a whole. On that basis, I think the questions that present people with various scenarios and ask them to judge them as a whole are more enlightening.

By 44% to 32% people thought it would be bad for Britain if we simply left and had no trade deal with the remainder of the EU. A Norway-type deal, with Britain joining EFTA and maintaining free trade with EU in exchange for free-movement, a financial contribution and following trade rules is seen a little less negatively (35% good, 38% bad)… but perhaps more importantly, by 42% to 32% people would see it as not seen as honouring the result of the referendum. Finally, we asked about a Canada-type deal, where there is no freedom of movement or financial contribution, but only a limited free trade deal that excludes services. That was seen as both honouring the result of the referendum, and as positive for Britain.

Of course negotiations haven’t yet started and the actual deals that end upon on the table may very well differ from these examples. I suspect views are not very deeply held yet, and people may very well change their minds when deals start to take shape and politicians and the media start to debate them. The public’s starting point, however, seems to be that a limited trade deal is both the best solution and a solution that respects the referendum result. We shall see how that changes once the negotiations actually begin.

The full tabs are on the website here.


If I were TNS or Opinium I would be rather annoyed today. Looking through social media, twitter and so forth there are lots of comments about the polls all being wrong and it being a terrible night for the pollsters, etc, etc. Both TNS and Opinium had final call figures of REMAIN 49%, LEAVE 51% – within a point of the actual result. Far from being a terrible night, they got it pretty much spot on, and should be getting congratulated.

The last general election was a disaster for all the pollsters. Last night wasn’t the same at all, it was a very bad result for some pollsters, but other companies did very well. Below is a chart of the Leave lead in the final results of all the pollsters who did a poll in the last week or so

finalpolls

The polls in blue were conducted online, the polls in orange were conducted by telephone. Note that ORB and Survation’s fieldwork both finished a few days before the referendum, so one cannot rule out a change in support in the days between their fieldwork and the vote itself. Disappointingly for me personally YouGov’s final poll had Remain ahead, albeit, only by two points. Unlike in May 2015 though I’ve a good idea of what went wrong (the turnout model we used for the poll weighted down people who didn’t vote at the last general election, when in reality turnout ended up being higher than the last general election), which is something that can be worked on.

During much of the campaign discussion of polls focused on the gap between telephone and online polls. The division is, as ever, really not as simple as that – Populus showed the largest Remain lead and it was conducted online, until they stopped polling a few weeks from the referendum ICM’s telephone polls were showing figures as Leave as their online polls. However, the general trend was clear – online polls tended to show a closer race than telephone polls; online polls tended to show it neck-and-neck, telephone polls tended to show Remain clearly ahead.

Many media commentators bought into the view that phone polls were “better” in some way, and should carry more weight than online polls (a debate I sought to avoid as much as possible, as there really wasn’t good evidence either way). I suspect this has played into the perception that the polls as a whole were wrong. If you’ve spent the last few months focusing on the polls showing a solid leave lead, and playing down the polls showing a neck-and-neck race, then you’d have been very surprised by last night.

The gap between online and phone narrowed during the campaign, and that was largely due to changes in online polls. The debate about the gap between phone and online polls has focused largely on potential differences in sampling – studies like that of Matt Singh and Populus found that people gave different answers to questions on things like immigration and national identity in online and telephone polls, that people in online sample seemed to be less socially liberal than people in telephone samples. In response several online pollsters adopted things like attitudinal weights to make their samples more like phone polls… perhaps, in hindsight, it should have been the other way around.

Since the error in the polls in 2015 I’ve said that the problems won’t be solved overnight. Pollsters are experimenting with different methods. Some of those things will work, some will not – it is a learning process. The record of polls conducted online is getting more promising – the performance of the mostly online polls at the May elections was mostly good, and most of the online polls for the EU referendum were either good, or at least only a few points out. While the problems of 2015 are probably not entirely cured yet, online companies are showing clear progress, for some phone polls there is clearly still work to be done.


It’s the eve of the referendum, so we have a flurry of late polls. Later on this evening we will have figures from ComRes and YouGov (Ipsos MORI’s final poll is normally in the Standard, so will probably be out tomorrow morning), already we have final figures from TNS and Opinium.

Opinium have topline figures of REMAIN 44%, LEAVE 45%, Undecided 9%. Leave are ahead by the tiniest of margins, but clearly the two sides are within the margin of error of each other. Full tabs are here.

TNS‘s final referendum poll also has Leave ahead, this time by two points. Topline figures here are REMAIN 41%, LEAVE 43%, Undecided or won’t vote 16%. Note that unlike TNS’s last few polls their headline figures here are NOT weighted for turnout – with their turnout model they would have been Remain 42%, Leave 49%. Full tabs are here.

I will update later once ComRes and YouGov publish. In the meantime both of the non-British Polling Council companies who produced more unorthodox polls last week have produced updated figures – SurveyMonkey have final figures of REMAIN 50%, LEAVE 47%; Qriously (the company sampling via smartphone ads) has final figures of REMAIN 37%, LEAVE 51, Don’t know 12%. Again, make of that what you will.

UPDATE: The ComRes and YouGov eve-of-referendum polls are now also out. Whereas TNS and Opinium both had Leave leads, ComRes and YouGov both show Remain ahead (albeit, by different margins):

ComRes for the Daily Mail have topline figures of REMAIN 54%, LEAVE 46%, a widening of the Remain lead after their last poll showing Remain and Leave within a point of each other. ComRes have reallocated don’t knows based on respondents’ views of the impact of Brexit on the economy, which looks like it boosted Remain by a point or so. Full tabs are here.

YouGov for the Times have topline figures of REMAIN 51%, LEAVE 49% – so considerably closer. The YouGov poll now includes a turnout weight (though it made no difference at all to the topline) and a squeeze question, which also bumped Remain up by a point. Full tables are here. On YouGov’s website they’ve also updated the multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) model of referendum voting using all their data, which they first posted earlier in the week, that is now also pointing towards a small lead for Remain.

Note that all four of the polls here include Northern Ireland. Most general election polls don’t, and so polls during the EU campaign have varied on whether they do or do not include NI – all these four do.

UPDATE2: Two more polls published on the day itself. Note that these polls were conducted before polls opened, they are only published today. It’s illegal to publish polls conducted on the day until polls close, but perfectly fine to publish polls conducted before polls opened.

Ipsos MORI‘s final poll has topline figures of REMAIN 52%, LEAVE 48%, putting Remain back ahead after a leave lead in MORI’s penultimate poll. MORI have slightly changed their turnout filter for their final poll, basing it on how likely people say they are to vote and how important they say the result is to them. Full tabs are here.

Finally, and a little surprisingly, Populus have produced a final call poll. Populus’s Andrew Cooper has been working with the StrongerIn campaign so the company haven’t been putting out regular polls during the campaign, but they have produced final topline figures of REMAIN 55%, LEAVE 45%. Unexpectedly given the topline results the poll was conducted online (completely messing up that “phone & YouGov saying in, other online saying out” pattern). Populus haven’t released tables yet, so I’ve no details of the weightings or adjustments used.