The Mail on Sunday today had a new Survation poll on Brexit, YouGov had a longer Brexit poll in the week. After a general election that was supposed to be a “Brexit election” but didn’t really contain much debate about Brexit, the agenda is now moving back onto the subject.

Public opinion on Brexit tends to be a bit unclear and nebulous. It’s one of those subjects where the impression created by a poll depends an awful lot on the questions asked and the wording used. With complex issues where people’s opinions are fairly uncertain it does makes an awful lot of difference how you ask the question. As ever, the best way of understanding it is to look at all the polling, not to jump on bits that appear to tell you want to want to hear. So in the spirit of that, what can we tell?

What sort of Brexit people want

Questions about the sort of Brexit people want come down to a couple of different patterns. One is asking if we should stay in the single market and/or the customs union. Other questions frame it as a trade off between immigration control and free trade. My preference is generally for questions that ask about Brexit packages are a deal, but there are even countless different ways of doing that (most notable degree to which they are described using terms like “soft” and “hard Brexit”).

There is also a question of what criteria you measure Brexit preferences by. It’s not just whether the sort of Brexit that the government delivers is seen as being good for Britain, it’s also a matter of whether it is seen as democratic. Are the government honouring the referendum result? This is most evident in questions about what the government should do now. 48% voted for Britain to remain a member of the EU in June 2016 and if you ask if that result was the right or wrong thing to do, or how people would vote if the referendum was repeated, you tend to find not much has changed: about half the country would vote to stay. However, questions asking what the government should do NOW generally paint a very different picture. YouGov consistently find around half of Remain voters now say that while they don’t support Brexit, they think they government is duty bound to go ahead with it. A new question on their poll this week asked what the government should now do on Brexit following the general election – 66% wanted to proceed with Brexit (43% on current plans, 23% for a softer Brexit), 17% wanted a fresh referendum, just 7% wanted to stop Brexit completely.

That’s not because only 7% of people would, ultimately, like to remain in the European Union (later in the same poll YouGov asked people to put their favoured outcomes in rank order and 35% of people would still, ideally, like Britain to remain a member), it’s because a substantial proportion of people think that the government has a duty to go ahead an implement the referendum result, even if they personally disagree with its outcome. For anyone campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU, that’s probably the more difficult obstacle… not convincing the public that Remaining would be good, but that it would be democratically legitimate.

Soft v Hard

If we are to leave, that brings us to the question is the balance between “hard” and “soft” Brexit. The terms themselves are a problem – personally I try avoid using them in questions as it’s unclear what people understand by the terms (Note how opponents of hard Brexit have started to call it “extreme Brexit”, rather than “hard Brexit”). I’ve always assumed that there is a majority to be found in favour of a “soft Brexit”: 48% of people voted to stay in the EU as it was and would presumably be fairly happy with a soft Brexit. Equally some minority of Leave voters would prefer a soft Brexit to a hard one. Even if the vast majority prefer a harder Brexit, when combined with the opinions of Remainers it only takes a few percentage points of soft Leavers to build a majority for soft Brexit.

Just asking about whether people would like to keep free trade or stay in the single market rather misses the point. I suspect the single market is just being seen as a euphemism for free trade, so the vast majority say they want to keep it. Equally when it is asked in isolation a large majority of people want to end the right of EU migrants to freely come to Britain. To give one example, a poll by NatCen earlier in the year found 68% in favour of treating EU migrants like non-EU migrants, and 88% in favour of free trade with the EU. These don’t tell us much beyond the the fact that ideally people would like all the benefits of EU membership without the responsibilities – of course they would. The interesting questions come when we start asking people to make trade offs.

There have been lots of different questions asking people to pick between free trade and immigration control when it comes to the Brexit deal. The wording makes a difference here (I am suspicious of questions asking about “freedom of movement” and the “single market” because I’m not sure people know exactly what they mean), but there is a clear pattern. To give some examples:

  • Opinium ask a regular question asking people to choose between the single market and ending free movement of Labour, typically the split is down the middle (in their last poll 37% preferred staying in the single market, 38% preferred ending free movement).
  • NatCen in February found 54% thought we should “allow people from EU freely to come and live and work” in return for “allowing UK firms to trade freely with the EU”, 44% did not.
  • In February Ipsos MORI found 40% of people thought EU citizens should continue to have the right to free movement in return from British access to the EU single market, 41% thought they should not, even if that meant losing access to the single market

These questions all assume, of course, that the public see this as an actual choice. That is not nececssarily the case – some people think it is a false choice, and that Britain will indeed be able to have its cake and eat it:

  • In March YouGov asked a version of the question that asked people to choose between it being more important to control EU immigration than keep free trade, more important to keep free trade than control immigration… but gave people the option of saying that it’s a false choice and that it was possible to do both. 16% thought it was more important to control immigration, 24% that it was more important to keep free trade… 40% that it was possible to do both (when forced to choose the 40% split down the middle, so overall more people wanted to keep free trade)
  • Opinium have a question along the same lines asking how likely they think it is that Britain could both stay in the single market AND stop free movement of labour from the EU – in their last poll 16% thought it was likely, 37% either didn’t know or didn’t think it likely or unlikely.

Looking overall at the questions, they tend to show it either very close or slightly more people valuing free trade over immigration control. However a substantial majority do think that both are possible, so actually selling a compromise as necessary may be tricky for the government.

Another caveat is that these questions do rather assume that the public’s big sticking point is going to be immigration. That’s not necessarily the case – for example, in April ICM asked in what areas the government should be willing to make compromises in negotiations: 54% said that a transitional deal on immigration would be acceptable, 48% said giving preference to EU immigrants over non-EU immigrants would be acceptable. On contrast, a majority thought that it would be unacceptable for the government to compromise on paying towards the outstanding costs of EU projects agreed when Britain was still a member. YouGov found similar in polling last summer – 51% thought allowing EU immigration was a price worth paying, but only 41% thought a financial contribution to the EU would be. Don’t necessarily assume that immigration is the trickiest obstacle.

Equally, before assuming that costs would necessarily be a deal-breaker for the public, the Survation poll at the weekend asked a different trade off – whether people would be willing to pay a fee in order to secure membership of the Customs Union. 27% would like Britain to leave the customs union, 37% would rather Britain pay a fee to remain a member.

Some other polls have asked wider ranging questions, asking about whole Brexit packages. My general assumption is that this is likely to be a better guide – in the end the Brexit deal is likely to be judged by whether it sounds good overall, rather than on a sum of its parts.

Before Theresa May set out her negotiating stance at the start of the year YouGov asked people about various Brexit scenarios. These suggest more problems with selling a “soft Brexit” to the public: a Norway style soft Brexit where Britain became a member of EFTA, stayed in the single market with EU immigration and a financial contribution was seen as good for Britain by 35%, bad for Britain by 38%. However only 32% thought it would respect the referendum result, 42% thought it would not. Compared to that Theresa May’s version of Brexit is popular – asked this week 52% still think her version of Brexit would be good for Britain (compared to 51% in March), 61% think it would respect the result of the referendum. By promising a trade deal AND controls on immigration she is presenting a version of Brexit that people would be happy with. The question is whether it is realistically possible. If May fails to secure the sort of Brexit she has asks for and returns with a deal that involves only limited free trade and customs checks and tariffs on British people think it would be bad for Britain by 42% to 31%.

Has the election changed the situation?

Given the variations you get from different question wordings on Brexit, the only real way of measuring if attitudes to Brexit have changed in face of the general election result are long term tracking questions. The YouGov survey this week was mostly made up of repeats of questions that were last asked before the election was called, and with a few important exceptions, opinion hasn’t changed much.

Directly comparing people’s preferences on Brexit there does appear to be a little shift towards a softer Brexit. Last November a hard Brexit of some sort was the first preference of 52% of people (26% favoured no deal at all with the EU, 26% only a limited deal), a soft Brexit or remaining a member was favoured by 48% (17% a soft Brexit, 31% remaining a member). Now only 45% support a hard Brexit (23% no deal, 22% a limited deal), 54% either a soft Brexit or Remaining (19% and 35% respectively).

The more drastic change has been confidence in Theresa May to deliver Brexit. Obviously this is not Brexit specific – the public’s attitude towards May has nose-dived across the board. Nevertheless, back in January 47% had confidence in May to negotiate the sort of Brexit she wanted, that has now fallen to 37%. In April 40% thought the government were doing well at negotiating Brexit, that is now only 22%.

This change is important – ultimately when Theresa May comes back with a final Brexit deal, she will be the person selling it to the British public (if she is still there, of course). Any political message depends a great deal on the person making it, and the Theresa May the public mostly thought very highly of in April 2017 would have been a far more effective saleswomen than the Theresa May we have now. To put it bluntly, she doesn’t have much political capital left to spend on selling her Brexit deal.

A second referendum?

Polling on a second referendum is somewhat mixed. The Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday at the weekend found 53% support a referendum on the final dead, 47% opposed, compared to 46% support and 54% opposition when they asked a very similar question in April. I should add a minor caveat in that the first question was asked online and the second by phone, but the important thing is the result: this appears to be the first poll that has shown more people supporting a second referendum than opposing one, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on to see if it’s a consistent pattern.

The YouGov poll this week asked a different question on what should happen after the final deal was agreed, offering options of a referendum or a Parliamentary vote, though it again appeared to show some movement. Only 25% wanted a referendum on the deal, 23% want a Parliamentary vote on the deal, 37% want the government to go ahead without any further. The proportion wanting a referendum or vote after the deal is up two points since the start of the month, the proportion thinking the government should just steam ahead is down five.

What next?

If there is public support for a softer Brexit out there, it does not mean it’s necessarily easy for the government to take advantage of it. The biggest obstacle for a soft Brexit is probably the politics of the Conservative party. The figures in most of this article are for the public as a whole. However, Theresa May’s position and her party’s position depends on the views of Conservative voters and those who might plausibly support them in the future. If you look at the answers for Tory voters, they think that a hard Brexit is preferable to a soft one, that May should plow on with the current targets rather than reconsider, that immigration control is more important than trade.

It would be interesting to see the same split amongst Conservative MPs (given the proportion who backed Remain it may not necessarily be in favour of hard Brexit), though the more pertinent question may be whether there are enough Conservative MPs who are wedded enough to the idea of a hard Brexit that they would trigger a vote of no confidence to remove Theresa May if she changed course. That, however, is steering away from this site’s focus on public opinion and polling into political commentary for which others are far better equipped than me. For now:

  • There has not really been much change in the overall proportions between Remain and Leave
  • But even if there is a fairly even split between people who think Brexit is good or bad for Britain, the proportion of people who think Brexit should go ahead is higher, as many of those who voted Remain think the referendum make it the government’s duty to go ahead with it
  • The ideal Brexit for much of the public one where Britain has its cake and eats it, where we control immigration AND have free trade – a substantial minority think this is possible
  • The version of Brexit that Theresa May laid out in January, with immigration control and the “freest trade deal” is still popular with a majority of the public
  • But trust in Theresa May to actually deliver it has plummeted over the last few months and most people don’t think other countries would agree to what she wants
  • If the sort of deal that May wants isn’t possible then most people think a harder Brexit would be bad for Britain. In contrast a Norway type deal risks being seen as not respecting the result. There is potential for either to be unpopular (especially for those people who think a cake-and-eat it deal was possible)
  • If push comes to shove, when people are forced to choose more people would opt for a soft Brexit rather than a hard one, for free trade rather than immigration control. However among Conservative voters the preference is the other way, and the political obstacles towards the Conservatives making such a change in their approach could be formidable.


ComRes have a poll in the Independent & Sunday Mirror. Topline figures with changes from last month are CON 42%(+1), LAB 25%(-1), LDEM 12%(+1), UKIP 10%(-1), GRN 4%(nc).

Earlier in the week the monthly Ipsos MORI political monitor was also published in the Evening Standard. Topline figures there were CON 43%(+3), LAB 30%(+1), LDEM 13%(nc), UKIP 6%(-3) (full details are here.

Three polls released since the budget all suggest the government emerged unscathed in terms of voting intention. UKIP’s figures are also interesting – while it’s normal for MORI to have the Lib Dems comfortably ahead of UKIP, we’re now in the unusual situation where all of the last three polls have the Lib Dems in third place and UKIP back in forth (that’s ComRes, MORI and the YouGov/Times poll in the week)

As well as the usual trackers, MORI also had some questions on EU negatotiations. Asked if the government were doing well or badly at handling Britain’s exit from the European Union 36% said a good job, 52% a bad job. Asked the same question about Theresa May 49% said a good job, 40% said a bad job. That alone is an interesting difference – I’d be fascinated to see how people who answered the two questions differently explained their answers (by guess is people would say something about May coming across as more competent than some of her ministers).

Asked how important various considerations were in Brexit negotiations 43% of people said it was essential or very important for Britain not to have to make any contributions to the EU after we’ve left, 43% also said it was essential or important to remain in the single market. 61% said it was essential or important that Britain has full control over immigration.

On the subject of Brexit negotiations, there was also some new YouGov polling in the week – I’ve written a longer article over on the YouGov website. This was a follow up to the YouGov poll after Theresa May’s January speech setting out her Brexit negotiating targets. Those were well received by most of the public, are still are – by 52% to 22% people think the sort of Brexit that May says she is aiming for would be good for Britain.

However, this leaves open the question of how people will react if the government don’t manage to get everything they want. Certainly some of the things that the government are aiming for are ambitious. In this week’s poll YouGov also asked how people would react if May failed to get some of things she wants, asking about a hypothetical deal where Britain ends up with tariff barriers and customs checks on many imports and exports with the EU. In that case only 30% say it would be good for Britain, 40% bad for Britain.

Asked what should happen next the most popular option would be for the government to go back and try to renegotiate. That’s pretty much a given though, the more interesting question is what people think should happen once all further opportunity for negotiation is exhausted. 41% said Britain should still leave on those terms; 32% that there should be a second referendum on whether to stay after all. 27% say not sure.

I think there’s some cause for optimism for both sides there. For those who want to leave, it suggests the balance of opinion would still be in favour of leaving even if Brexit negotiations are seen to have failed. For those who want to stay, the 27% of people who would be unsure suggests that plenty of people are open to persuasion.

This is, of course, very much a hypothetical question, a straw in the wind of how the public might react if the negotiations go badly. Time will tell what actually happens if things don’t go to plan.

UPDATE: There’s also a Opinium poll in the Observer. Topline figures there are CON 41%, LAB 28%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, so there is still one poll with UKIP holding on to their third place. Full tabs are here.


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The Times have a new YouGov poll this morning, carried out after Theresa May’s Brexit speech. Overall, it looks as if the PM has passed her first Brexit test – a majority of the public support the sort of Brexit she is seeking to achieve. Whether they support the sort of Brexit she actually manages to get other EU countries to agree to once negotiations are complete is, of course, a different matter.

YouGov asked respondents if they agreed with some of the key negotiation points May set out: many of these were uncontroversial (an overwhelming majority of people wanted UK control of immigration, an open border with Ireland, the rights of existing immigrations to be protected and continued co-operation on security). Most of these are obvious though – the two more controversial points were the confirmation that Britain would leave the single market and the customs union. A majority of people supported both, but it was split very much among pro-EU and anti-EU lines: a huge majority of Leave voters thought it was the right thing to do, but Remain voters tended to think it was wrong to leave the single market and were split over the customs union.

Looking at a list of specific measures is not necessarily a good way of measuring support for May’s stance anyway. Most of us won’t tot up the individual details, people tend to judge the overall package. Asked about May’s Brexit plan as a whole, there was a clear thumbs up. 55% think it would be good for Britain; only 19% think it would be bad. 62% think it would respect the referendum result and by 53% to 26% people say that they would be happy with the outcome.

While people like what May is seeking, that doesn’t mean they think it is actually achievable. While the public do express confidence in May’s negotiating ability (by 47% to 38%), only 20% of people think that other EU countries will agree to what she wants. Only time will tell how the public react to whatever EU deal May actually manages to get.

The poll also asked voting intention. Topline figures were CON 42%, LAB 25%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 12%, putting the Tories back up to a seventeen point lead. As ever it is only one poll, so don’t read too much into that huge lead: it may be that May setting out a clearer route forward for Brexit (and the good press she got yesterday) has given the Tories a boost… or it may just be normal random variation. Full tabs are here


In terms of support for Brexit we end the year in pretty much the same place as we were on June 23rd. Among some there is a desire to jump on the slightest bit of evidence to suggest that people have changed their mind one way or the other. Overall however, the polling suggests that public opinion remains largely unchanged.

There have been numerous polls since the referendum that have asked how people would vote in another referendum tomorrow (below are all the polls I can find in the last three months):

ComRes/CNN (18th Dec) – Remain 45, Leave 47 (Remain 49, Leave 51)
Gallup International (7th Dec) – Remain 54, Leave 46 (Remain 54, Leave 46)
ComRes/Mirror (27th Nov) – Remain 46, Leave 47 (Remain 49, Leave 51)
YouGov (25th Oct) – Remain 44, Leave 43 (Remain 51, Leave 49)
BMG (24th Oct) – Remain 45, Leave 43 (Remain 51, Leave 49)
Survation/ITN (12th Oct) – Remain 44, Leave 44 (Remain 50, Leave 50)

All except the Gallup International poll are within the margin of error of the referendum result (I think the contrast is because the Gallup poll has a very large proportion of university educated respondents, which correlates with support for EU membership). On average they show only a small movement towards Remain and – looking closer – even that may be illusionary. Looking at the actual tables for the polls none of them show any real net movement between Remain and Leave voters, the small move to Remain is only because people who didn’t vote last time claim they are more likely to vote Remain this time. I would treat that with some degree of scepticism – of course, it could be those people took the result for granted and would be spurred into action in a second referendum… or it could be those who couldn’t be bothered last time probably wouldn’t be bothered in a second referendum either.

In addition, YouGov have asked a regular question for the Times on whether people think leaving was the right or wrong way for Britain to vote. That too shows no obvious evidence of Bregret:

YouGov (5th Dec) – Right 44%, Wrong 42%
YouGov (29th Nov) – Right 44%, Wrong 45%
YouGov (15th Nov) – Right 46%, Wrong 43%
YouGov (12th Oct) – Right 45%, Wrong 43%

Both sides of the debate have taken other figures to try and claim that the balance of opinion has shifted in their direction. In recent days I’ve seen several people who really should know better getting excited over voodoo polls in local newspapers that claim to show a big shift towards Remain – rather than let this post get overtaken by a rant, I’ve addressed that elsewhere. On the other side of the divide, some Brexit supporters have a tendency to misinterpret this YouGov poll to claim shows 68% now support leaving the EU. This is a little disingenuous – the poll doesn’t show that support for leaving has grown from 52% to 68%, it’s a different question asking about what the government should do. The 68% includes 23% of people who say they do NOT personally support Brexit, but that the government has a duty to do it.

Neither does there appear to be much current appetite for a second referendum. ComRes for CNN found 35% thought there should a referendum on the terms of exit, but 53% thought there should not. A similar recent question by Opinium for Keiran Pedley found very similar results – people opposed a second referendum on the terms of Brexit by 52% to 33% and also opposed one if the economy worsened, again by 52% to 33%. A poll by YouGov found that only 26% of people thought it was legitimate for those opposed to Brexit to campaign for a second referendum, 59% thought it was not.

As things stand public opinion does not appear to have moved since the referendum and people do not want a referendum, but as ever they are only a snapshot, not a prediction of how attitudes to Brexit may change in the future. Is there anything we can tell from current polls about how public attitudes towards Brexit might develop? There are two obvious “known knowns” ahead that could potentially change attitudes to Brexit: the negotiations and the economic impact.

The financial angle depends on what the economic impacts are and how long they take to show themselves. I am not an economist so won’t seek to speculate. I will urge caution though about polls showing that people would turn against Brexit if it cost them x amount of money, caused a recession, unemployment or so on. Should the economy collapse, I have no doubt that it would have a major impact on attitudes to both the government and to Brexit. I am less confident about what impact more modest economic bad news will have. Polls attempting to measure this assume that people will blame any economic ups and down on Brexit, and I don’t think they will – or at least, they will interpret it through the prism of their existing support or opposition. People who opposed Brexit will blame economic bad news on it, but people who supported it will blame it on other factors, or on obstructive Europeans, or Remoaners talking Britain down or whatnot. It is the nature of human beings that we are very good at defending our beliefs against data that might challenge them.

More interesting are the negotiations. We don’t yet know what sort of Brexit the government will be aiming for (well, not in any useful terms. We know what colour Brexit they want, but this is of limited use in judging potential public reactions) but given there are different possibilities and people have different preferences, once firm targets are announced some people will likely be disappointed.

Lots of polling evidence shows that the public would like to maintain free trade with the EU, but would also like to limit EU immigration – in Boris Johnson’s words, the public’s preference is clearly to have their cake and eat it. This is unlikely to be available.

If they have to choose, the polling evidence suggests the public are very evenly divided. There have been various polls using various different wordings that amount to a forced choice between EU market access or cutting EU immigration – all show a tight divide. An ORB poll this month found people agreeing by 44% to 40% that more control over immigration was more important than keeping EU free trade; a YouGov poll in November asking a forced choice between market access for British exporters and reducing immigration broke down as 49% for market access, 51% for immigration; ComRes in November found 42% would prioritise the single market over immigration, 43% would prioritise cutting EU immigration; NatCen found 49% of people said we should accept freedom of movement as the price of staying in the single market, 51% that we should not.

Looking only at immigration vs market access is probably taking to tight a focus anyway. I suspect the public will judge it as a overall package – as a whole, does it seem like a good deal for Britain? Even there is evidence is contradictory though: Opinium asked people to pick between a “soft Brexit” scenario and a “hard Brexit” scenario and people preferred the former by 41% to 35% (though the question also made clear that soft Brexit was economically better, which the public won’t necessarily think). YouGov have asked people to rate a number of scenarios – a hard Brexit on WTO terms, a limited trade deal along the Canadian model and a Norway type deal remaining in the EEA. On those a Canadian type deal polls significantly better than a Norway type relationship – 50% think it would be good for Britain, 65% think it would respect the referendum and 51% would be happy. In comparison the figures for a Norway type outcome would be 34% good for Britain, 33% respect the referendum, 37% happy (WTO terms would also be bad – 34% good for Britain, 66% respect result, 37% happy).

That is the narrow path which Theresa May must navigate – a Brexit that doesn’t mess up Britain’s trading relationship with Europe so much it sinks the economy, yet is not perceived by Leave voters as a betrayal. If we end up with a Brexit that has tougher consequences that some Leave voters expected then there is potential for public opinion to move against it. On the other hand, if we end up with a Brexit that retains more links with the European Union than some Leave voters hoped for there is the potential for a betrayal narrative to take hold, presumably to the benefit of UKIP. Either situation may bring division within the Conservative party, which has only a wafer thin majority to begin with.

Ultimately, I suppose those are two questions that matter about public opinion on Brexit. One, will public opinion move sufficiently against Brexit to make it avoidable? Two, how will it impact on the popularity of the Conservative government and opposition parties?

To answer the first one, as yet there has been little or no net movement in opinion since the referendum, the majority of people think the government have a duty to implement the results of the referendum and and the majority of people are opposed to revisiting the question. However, given the vote was only 52-48 it wouldn’t take much to tip opinion in favour of staying once the consequences become a bit more visible. It remains to be seen if the negotiations or economic developments do change things. Getting majority support for a second referendum is a much bigger ask and would be a necessity if there is any chance of a second referendum (well, counting 1975 a third referendum) has any chance of delivering a different result to 2016. Anti-elitism was an important factor in the vote, and the perception that an uncaring and distant political elite didn’t like what the public said so wants them to vote again differently would be a very powerful narrative.

As for the political parties, Brexit is the mission that has been forced upon Theresa May’s government and the yardstick they will inevitably be judged by. Thus far the public think they have been carrying it out badly, yet this has not damaged their position in the polls (presumably because it is still early days). If Brexit doesn’t work out well for them, they will suffer – especially given the high expectations of some Brexit supporters. The government’s great challenge will be to sell the compromises that will be necessary, the difficulty will be persuading the public that such compromises are either unavoidable or in Britain’s interests… as opposed to being the result of government ineptitude, backsliding or lack of ambition. If people believe the latter – that a government led by someone who never really wanted Brexit anyway is failing to be ambitious enough in our Brexit negotiations, I imagine it will be UKIP who benefit. If they deliver Brexit that’s hardness is beyond doubt, but the economy collapses, who knows who will benefit…


Opinium’s latest voting intention poll has topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%. The seven point Conservative lead is much tighter than we’ve seen in other recent polls, which have almost all had double-figure Tory leads. While the lead has dropped in this poll, I suspect the difference is methodological somehow – most of Opinium’s recent polls have had Tory leads that are smaller than those from other companies. One of the results of the 2015 polling error and polling companies’ efforts to correct them is that we can’t really tell for sure which are right. Is it that some companies haven’t done enough to correct the errors of the past, or others who have done too much?

Given I’ve flagged up the increase in Lib Dem support in the last three polls I should also point out the absence of one here, they are down one point. We’ve had four polls since the Richmond by-election, two showing a small increase, one a small drop, one a substantial increase. Taking an average across the four polls, a very modest impact on national levels of Lib Dem support. Full tabs are here.

The same poll had a couple of questions for Keiran Pedley – the first asked people if they preferred a Brexit where Britain left completely, but got a harsh deal meaning the economy suffers, unemployment increases and there’s less money for public services… or a Brexit where Britain remains in some EU institutions, has freedom of movement, is subject to the EU courts and so on. Faced with that stark choice, people went with the “soft Brexit” option by 41% to 35%. However, it does, of course, assume that people can be convinced that a “hard Brexit” option would result in the economy suffering, unemployment increasing and so on. We’ve just had a salutary lesson that lots of experts telling people that leaving the EU would have negative economic effects is not necessarily effective. I think the most we can say is that it suggests if people can be convinced that a hard Brexit would damage the economy, jobs and public services and that a soft Brexit would not, then they would prefer a soft Brexit… but that “if” is doing a lot of work.

Keiran also asked two questions about a second referendums, both finding a majority of people do not want one. The first asked if people would like a second referendum after terms are agreed, the second asked if there should be a second referendum if it becomes clear that Brexit is damaging the economy. In both cases 33% said yes, 52% said no – suggesting that a declining economy wouldn’t necessarily make people want to reconsider the issue.

That second question is key in a lot of current discussion about public attitudes to Brexit. It is clear from current polling that that has not been any significant shift in public opinion since the referendum, most people think the govt is obliged to deliver on the referendum result and that most people do not currently want a second referendum. The hopes of some of those who would like to stay in the European Union are pinned upon the idea that as the negotiation period progresses the impact on the British economy will begin to be felt and at that point the public will change their mind, want to stay after all, and therefore be open to the idea of a second referendum.

Whether there is a chance of this happening is very tricky to measure in a poll. It’s asking people to predict how their opinions might change as a result of future economic developments, when respondents themselves don’t know the answer. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the economy in coming years, and we certainly don’t know what the public will attribute it too. It would be naive to think that an economic downturn will necessarily be blamed on Brexit by those people who supported Brexit. People view new events and information through the prism of their existing views, and many Brexit supporters will blame it on other economic factors, or on the rest of the EU trying to punish us, or pro-Europeans wanting Brexit to fail…. or take it as short-term pain that will be outweighed by later gain (in the same way, many pro-EU people will be liable to blame things on Brexit that have nothing to do with it. This is not a comment about supporters of one side or the other, but on human nature in general).