There are three new EU referendum polls today, a telephone poll from ORB and parallel phone and online polls from ICM.
The ORB poll for the Telegraph has topline figures of REMAIN 51%(-4), LEAVE 46%(+4), Don’t know 3%(nc) – full tables are here. The Telegraph wrote it up as immigration producing a significant swing towards Leave. I would normally have been ready to dismiss that as reading far too much into a poll that was probably just reversion to the mean: if you look at ORB’s previous figures their poll last week may have shown a thirteen point lead… but the two before that were almost identical to today’s figures. Newspapers may want to write that up as “big swing to Remain” followed by “big swing to Leave”, but a more parsimonious interpretation is just “slightly wonky sample returns to normal”.
However, today’s other polls from ICM raise more interesting questions.
ICM once again carried out two parallel polls, one conducted online, one conducted by telephone. So far all but one of these experiments have found a big gulf between phone and online polls (typically online polls show a race that’s neck-and-neck, telephone polls show a lead averaging around 8-10 points). ICM’s online poll found the sort of close race we’ve come to expect, with topline figures of REMAIN 44%(-1), LEAVE 47%(+2), Don’t know 9%(-1). ICM’s telephone poll found wholly unexpected results of REMAIN 42%(-5), LEAVE 45%(+6), Don’t know 13%(-1). Full tables for both are here.
There is nothing unusual about how the ICM poll was carried out that might explain the unusual result, it was done the same way as their previous telephone polls that showed Remain leads of seven or eight points. This leaves us with two obvious possibilities:
Either there has been a genuine movement towards Leave in recent days and the movement in the ICM poll reflects that (suggesting also that the ORB poll is showing more than just reversion to the mean), or…
ICM just got a really wacky sample by polling over the bank holiday weekend, and future telephone polls will revert to the normal pattern of solid remain leads.
Right now we can’t really tell. I will only urge my normal caveats about not reading too much into an individual poll, especially one conducted over a bank holiday weekend (whether or not that makes an actual difference or is “pollster folklore” is unclear. It’s certainly possible to point to clear examples of weird results from polls with bank holiday fieldwork, but it’s possible to point to weird results from polls conducted at other times and bank holiday results that are perfectly normal. While I’d always try to avoid polling over Easter or Christmas, I suspect in reality the Spring bank holiday doesn’t make that much difference to fieldwork). It will be interesting to see if forthcoming polls show a wider trend towards Leave, and if forthcoming telephone polls give any further suggestion that the online-phone gap may be disappearing.