YouGov have a new poll in the Times tonight conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson. It suggests public opinon is breaking against the Chequers Brexit deal, and that public confidence in the government’s handling of Brexit is falling ever further.

Only 13% of people now think the Chequers Brexit deal would be good for Britain (down 1 since the pre-resignation poll at the weekend), 42% think it would not (up 9). 23% think it respects the referendum deal (down 4), 39% think it does not (up 10). Just 13% of people now think that the governemnt are handling the Brexit negotiations well, down from 18% at the weekend.

On voting intention, Labour have reopened a small lead, the first from YouGov since March. Topline figures have the Tories on 37% (down 2), Labour unchanged on 39%. The changes themselves are within the normal margin of error, but coming on top of the YouGov and Survation polls conducted at the the weekend which both showed a drop in the Conservative lead, it doesn’t look positive for them (though that said, an ICM poll earlier today, conducted between Friday and Monday, did not suggest any movement). As ever, it is worth waiting for other post-resignation polls to see if it turns out to be a consistent pattern, or just noise.


Voting intention polls over the last fortnight have been showing the same pattern that we’ve become used to over the last four month: Conservative and Labour very close to each other in support, with the Tories averaging a very small lead.

Survation/GMB (20th June) – CON 41, LAB 38, LDEM 7
ICM/Guardian (24th June) – CON 41, LAB 40, LDEM 9
YouGov/Times (26th June) – CON 42, LAB 37, LDEM 9
Ipsos MORI (27th June) – CON 41, LAB 38, LDEM 9
YouGov/Times (4th July) – CON 41, LAB 40, LDEM 9
AVERAGE – CON 41, LAB 39, LDEM 9

There’s a fresh Survation poll in today’s Mail on Sunday, with fieldwork conducted wholly on Saturday, after the Chequers summit. Topline figures there are CON 38%(-3), LAB 40%(+2), LDEM 10%(+3). While Survation typically show Labour in a better polling position than other companies do, this is still the first Survation poll to show Labour ahead since March. On the other hand, it is well within the normal margin of error (Survation’s polls over the last four months have averaged at CON 41, LAB 40). I will leave it with my normal caveats about reading too much into polls after events – they have the same sample variation as any other poll, so don’t assume that any change is a result of the event, rather than just noise. Wait and see if other polls show a similar pattern of change.

In the meantime, is there anything polling can tell us about how the Brexit deal will impact public attitudes? Our starting point, as is so often the case, should be to recall how little attention most people pay towards the intricacies of the Brexit negoatiations. Most people are not glued to the ins- and outs- of it, don’t know or care about the specifics of court juristrictions and trade regulations. The Brexit deal will, in all likelihood, be judged upon broad brush preceptions. Do people think it is a good deal for Britain? Do people think it is a genuine Brexit?

On those two measures, the Survation poll gave people a brief summary of the deal and asked people if they approved – 33% did, 22% did not, 35% neither approved nor disapproved and 10% did not know. Balance of opinion amongst remainers and leavers was positive, though it went down better among Remainers (for Leave the break was 30% approve, 25% disapprove; for Remain the break was 39% approve, 25% disapprove). The response was less positive when they asked if it was faithful to the referendum result – 29% thought it was, 38% thought it was not, 34% said don’t know. Overall, 26% said it was the right deal, 42% that it was the wrong deal, 32% didn’t know.

That’s clearly a mixed response – the balance of public opinion approves of it, but doesn’t think it respects the result and doesn’t think it’s the right deal. And on all those measures an awful lot of people said don’t know. I expect that’s largely because people have been asked about something they weren’t paying much attention to and didn’t have much of an opinion on it yet (it cannot be easy to get a sample within a space of a few hours at the best of times. When England are playing a World Cup Quarter final at the same point…).

The question is how they will make that decision. For obvious reasons most people will not have spent their Saturday poring over the government press release from the Chequers summit, nor will they read the White Paper this week! It will depend how the papers react to it, how the broadcast media report it, how politicians people recognise like the party leaders, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and so on react to it.

The wise thing to do now is to wait and see if there is any lasting movement in the polls, or whether (in public opinion terms) this is just another one of those arguments about the fine details of Brexit that the public seem to be largely tuning out of.

(Note that – despite what it appears to show on my sidebar to the right – UKIP were NOT on zero percent in the latest Survation poll. The poll didn’t ask people who said they’ve vote “other” which other party they would vote for, so it’s impossible to tell UKIP support from the poll.)


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One year to go

You will unavoidably have noticed that today marks one year until Brexit day, when the article 50 timetable runs out and the British government has signalled its intention to leave the European Union. I’ve written a long piece over on the YouGov website here about where public opinion stands on Brexit which I’d encourage you to read, but here is a brief take on where we are.

Firstly, there has still been no big shift in opinion since the referendum. Since last year there has been a gradual drift, but nothing substantial. However, given the original vote was so close, that still means that you tend to find marginally more people saying Brexit is a bad thing than a good thing. YouGov ask a regular question asking if Brexit was the right or wrong decision – until the middle of last year it was typically showing an even split, in recent months it’s typically showing slightly more people think it was the wrong decision than the right one.

While it’s right to say people have moved against Brexit, it’s not right to say that most people want it stopped. If you ask people what the government should do now, the majority still want Brexit to go ahead in some way. The reason for this apparent paradox is that there is a minority of Remain voters who say the government should go ahead with Brexit – presumably because it is seen as democratic duty given the result of the referendum. One should be careful when interpreting individual polling results for this reason – you’ll sometimes find pro-Brexit sources representing polls showing a majority want to go ahead with Brexit as indicating majority support for Brexit, or anti-Brexit sources representing polls showing people disapprove of Brexit as opposing it going ahead. Neither appears to be true – looking at polling evidence in the whole the position appears to be that the public want Brexit to continue, despite starting to think it’s a bad idea.

Secondly, as ever it’s worth remembering that most people are really not that fussed about the details of Brexit. I could apply this caveat to almost any political issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth repeating. One reason that the ins and outs of the Brexit negotiations don’t make an impact on views is that people aren’t paying that much attention. 55% of people say they find news about Brexit boring (36% interesting). 47% of people say they are following Brexit very or fairly closely (itself probably an exaggeration) – 48% say they aren’t following it closely or at all.

Thirdly, support for a second referendum. Different polling companies produce very different results for this question, some (including the YouGov poll today) show more support than opposition for a second referendum, others show more people now support one. It seems to depend how the question is asked – wording along the lines of “asking the public” tends to provoke more support.

If a referendum was to happen, it would most likely be because of a government defeat in the Commons on the Brexit legislation or deal. The new YouGov poll asked whether people thought it was legitimate or not for the MPs to vote against Brexit. On the deal, the balance of opinion was that it was legitimate for MPs to block it – 42% thought it legitimate, 34% thought it was not. However, if it came to actually blocking Brexit itself the position swaps over – only 33% would see it as legitimate, 45% would not (as you might expect, it is mostly Remainers who see blocking Brexit as legitimate, most Leavers do not).

Finally the poll included some questions about whether the campaigns cheated in the referendum and the impact it had. Once again, people largely viewed it through the prism of their existing support for Remain or Leave.

  • 66% of Remain voters thought that the campaigns had cheated (39% Leave only, 3% Remain only and 24% both), and 45% of Remainers thought that if the campaigns had followed the rules Remain would have won.
  • 47% of Leave voters thought that the campaigns had cheated (14% Remain only, 4% Leave only and 29% both), but only 7% of Leavers thought that if the campaigns had followed the rules Remain would have won (16% thought Leave would have won more convincing had the rules been followed).

The full article on the YouGov website is here and the full tables are here.


There are two polls on holding a second referendum in today’s papers.

YouGov in the Times found 36% of people in favour of a second referendum once Brexit negotiations are complete, 43% of people were opposed, 21% said don’t know. This is slightly up on last year – YouGov found 33% support in December and 32% in October. Full tabs are here.

The other poll was by ComRes in the Mirror. 43% of people said they would like a second referendum, 51% would not, 6% said don’t know. The don’t knows are lower, but the proportions of support and opposition to a second referendum are similar.

ComRes also asked how people would vote in a second referendum – excluding don’t knows, 55% of people said REMAIN, 45% LEAVE. The Mirror made a big fuss about this, but it requires some caution. The ComRes tables are here and suggest the data was only weighted by age, gender and region – as opposed to most polls, which are also weighted to ensure they are representative by things like past vote, 2016 referendum vote, education, class and so on. Now, there is a place for flash polls like this in getting a quick gauge of the public’s opinion on a breaking news story, but whether they are suitable for something as delicate as voting intention is a different question.

When it comes to voting intention – whether it be for an election or a referendum – the last few elections have taught us that getting the sample right and getting turnout right are crucial. For Brexit, that means ensuring the sample is right on things that like education, social class (where the ComRes poll appears to be 70% ABC1!) – and ensuring the sample has the right sort of balance of people who voted Remain and Leave last time. I would apply some caution towards any poll that did not.

I did a longer piece looking at polling on support for Brexit last month, here. Typically polls asking about how people would vote in a second referendum (which BMG and Survation ask regularly, Opinium and YouGov on occassion) have shown smaller Remain leads of between 1 and 4 points.


Another week, another Brexit poll for partisan twitter to get overexcited about. In this case the fuss was caused by a YouGov poll that appeared to show people backing Brexit by 48% to 39%. This survey was actually the GB answers to question asked to several EU countries – the intention of it wasn’t to measure UK support for Brexit, but to see whether or not the public elsewhere in Europe still wanted Britain to stay, or whether we’ve got to point that they’d really just like us to hurry up and go away (for the record, most of the German, Danish, Swedish and Finnish public would still like Britain to stay. The French are evenly divided). There was also a question earlier in the survey about Martin Schulz’s vision of a federal Europe which may or may not have influenced answers – however, this post isn’t about the specific question, but about all the Brexit surveys we tend to see.

As ever, when a poll comes out that appears to show public support for Brexit it is excitely retweeted and shared by lots of pro-Brexit voices. When a poll comes out that appears to show public opposition to Brexit it is excited retweeted and shared by lots of anti-Brexit voices. Both of these create a deeply misleading picture. To start with, there are three different questions about current attitudes to Brexit that people often treat as being measures of public support for Brexit which don’t always show the same answers…

1) Questions asking how people would vote in a Brexit referendum tomorrow
2) Questions asking whether people think Brexit was the right or wrong decision
3) Questions asking whether people think we should now go ahead with Brexit or not

Starting with the first type of question, BMG and Survation both ask EU referendum voting intention regularly, and ICM, Opinium and YouGov have asked it on occassion. BMG’s most recent poll showed a ten point lead for Remain and got a lot of publicity, but this was something of an outlier. Typically these polls have shown a small lead for Remain of between one and four points.

Any question asking about voting intention in a referendum or election is really two questions – it’s working out who would vote, and then how they would vote. When polls ask how the public would vote in an EU referendum tomorrow they tend to find not much net movement among remain and leave voters, the Remain leads are down to those who didn’t vote in 2016. This raises all sorts of questions about whether those past non-voters would actually vote and whether they are actually representative of 2016 non-voters, or are too politically engaged and likely to vote.

There’s also a question of how useful a referendum voting intention question is when there isn’t actually a second referendum due. The most likely route to a second referendum is a referendum on the terms of the deal…which obviously aren’t known yet. In my experience, most people who contact polling companies asking whether we’ve asked a Brexit referendum question aren’t primarily interested in how people would vote in a second referendum, but really want to see if the public have changed their mind about how they voted in the first one…

YouGov regularly ask a direct “Bregret question” to get at that question, asking whether people think voting for Brexit was the right or wrong decision. The results here are quite similar to referendum questions, but because it is a question about public attitudes as a whole rather than voting intentions concerns about likelihood to vote don’t arise. Looking at the regular YouGov tracker, there has again been a slow movement towards Regret, meaning that for the last three or four months the poll has consistently shown slightly more people thinking Brexit was the wrong decision than the right decision.

The final group of questions is “what do we do now” questions. No company asks a regular tracker along these lines, but there are several questions asked on this sort of basis. By stating with “at this point” the question in the YouGov poll this week tilts toward this sort of question, but there are other more explicit examples asking what people think should happen next – for example, YouGov have a semi-regular tracker that asks how the government should proceed with Brexit, which this month found 52% thought the government should go ahead with Brexit, 16% that they should call a second referendum, 15% that they should stop Brexit and remain in the EU. The reason for the difference in these questions is that a substantial minority of people who voted Remain in 2016 consistently say that the government should go ahead and implement Brexit (presumably because they see them as having a democratic duty to implement the referendum result).

It is true to say that more of the public now tend to think Brexit was the wrong decision than the right decision, and say they would vote against it in a referendum. It is also true to say that most of the public think that Brexit should go ahead. Neither measure is intrinsically better or worse, right or wrong… they are just asking slightly different things. If you want to understand public attitudes towards Brexit, you need to look at both, rather than cherry pick the one that tells you what you want to hear.