This morning’s Times has a new YouGov poll of Conservative party members, asking mainly about Brexit and the party leadership.

Party members are a generally loyal bunch, so as you’d expect all the main players are seen as doing well, though Michael Fallon and David Davis stand out as having the best job approval. While everyone has very positive ratings overall, there are some contrasts between members who voted remain and leave, most obviously in the case of Boris Johnson. 83% of Tory members who voted Leave think Boris is doing well as Foreign Secretary, only 42% of Tory remainers think he is.

Despite the strongly positive ratings for Davis, there are doubts over the Brexit negotiations. 61% of Tory members think the government are doing well, 33% badly. Asked about what the government’s approach should be, 59% agree with Theresa May’s aim of leaving the single market and customs union and negotiating a new deal, 19% would rather just leave immediately with no deal, 12% would rather Britain did remain a member of the single market and customs union, 9% would rather Britain remain a full EU member.

In terms of the details of Brexit Theresa May appears to have some degree of flexibility with her members so long as Britain makes a clean break. 58% of Tory members would think a transition deal was fine (even if it includes payment and following EU rules), 61% think a one-off payment to settle Britain’s financial liabilities is fine too. Trickier would be any ongoing financial payment in return for market access (70% of Tory members would see this as unacceptable) or Britain remaining in the single market (69% would see it as unacceptable).

Looking to May’s future, there is very little appetite for her immediate removal (only 13% of her party members would like her to go now or in the next year), but equally there is relatively little support for her still being around come the next election (only 29%). Most Tory party members would like her to leave after Brexit (38%) or just before the next election (13%).

Who would be a likely successor is unclear. Boris Johnson leads the field as first choice, but only of 23% of members. Second is Ruth Davidson on 19%, third is Jacob Rees-Mogg, suggesting there are actually real party members who think he’d make a good leader, rather than just journos struggling to fill column inches in silly season. David Davis has now dropped to fourth place on 11%, Amber Rudd is on just 6%.

Asked what is most important to them in a leader the vast majority of party members say ability to win an election or competence as Prime Minister, rather than whether they agree with them politically. Their actual preferences paint a different picture though, with consistent differences between Remain and Leave Tories. Tory members who voted Leave say their first choices are Johnson (29%), Rees-Mogg (23%), Davidson (14%), Davis (13%). Tory members who voted Remain say their first choices are Davidson (29%), Rudd (14%), Hammond (11%), Johnson (10%).

YouGov also asked about various potential candidates individually. 58% think Davidson would make a good leader, 56% Johnson, 55% Davis, 42% Rudd, 32% Hammond, 31% Fox, Javid 29%. While the poll included some less high profile figures who have been talked of as potential leaders of the future, most party members didn’t really have an impression of them – 49% said they didn’t know enough about Dominic Raab to have an opinion, 65% said the same about Tom Tugendhat. Notably, of all those asked about Ruth Davidson was the only candidate that both Remain voting Tories and Leave voting Tories thought would make a good leader. It would be an extremely positive sign for a Davidson leadership campaign… if, of course, she had any interest in moving down to Westminster or seeking the job.

Full tabs are here.


There was a YouGov poll yesterday with some post-Florence EU questions, suggesting a pretty poor reception for Theresa May’s speech. The proportion thinking that the government are doing well at negotiating Brexit has fallen from 24% to 21% since last month, its lowest since January. 61% now think they are doing badly, including three-quarters of Remain voters and almost half of Leave voters.

The principle of a transition period is broadly accepted – 46% think it is a good idea, 26% a bad idea. The majority of the public also say it would be acceptable for such a deal to include remaining in the single market and/or freedom of movement for a transitional period. The tricker elements to sell to the public appear to be the juristiction of the European Court (by 43% to 35% people say this would be unacceptable for a transition period) and continuing to pay the EU during the transition period (38% acceptable, 42% unacceptable.) 62% of leave voters see paying a fee during a transition fee as unacceptable.

Whether they agree with it or not, 33% of people say that the Conservative party’s policy on Brexit is clear – 45% say it is unclear or confusing.

While people are not impressed by the government’s handling of Brexit, the public remain pretty evenly divided on whether or not to go. 44% still think Britain is right to leave, 45% that it’s wrong (typical of past months). Asked what they’d like the government to do on Brexit 40% think they should proceed with their current negotiating aims, 12% would prefer a softer Brexit, 18% would like another referendum to see if people still want to leave, 14% would like the government to halt Brexit.

Voting intention is CON 39%(-2), LAB 43%(+1), LDEM 7%(nc). Full tabs are here


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Yesterday I got a few questions about a new BMG poll in the Independent that had voting intentions in a hypothetical EU referendum tomorrow at 52% remain, 48% leave. The Indy wrote this up with a pretty hyperbolic “Majority want to stay!!!”. The full results – along with a fair more reasonable and caveated write-up by BMG themselves – are here.

So, what is the bigger picture in terms of attitudes to Brexit, and is there any sign of people changing their minds?

I should start by pointing out that how people would vote in a hypothetical referendum tomorrow is not necessarily the same question as what people think should happen now (perhaps surprisingly!). If you ask people what should happen now, a clear majority say Britain should leave the EU. If you ask people how they’d vote in a referendum now, they are split down the middle between Remain and Leave. The difference appears to be because there is a chunk of people who personally favour remain, but think the government has a duty to leave following the referendum. Neither of these is necessarily a “better” measure of public opinion, opinion is best understood by looking at both: that is, the public are split equally on what they’d prefer, but some remainers think that the referendum means Brexit should go ahead anyway.

If we do look specifically at how people would vote in a referendum tomorrow, there is comparatively little change since 2016. Most Remain voters would still vote Remain, most Leave voters would still vote Leave. People who did not vote at all in 2016 tend to split in favour of Remain, meaning that the overall figure tends to be around a 50-50 split. Polls, of course, typically have a margin of error of around 2 or 3 points. This means if the actual position is a 50-50 split, then normal sample variation will inevitably spit out some results that are 52-48, or 48-52, or whatever. This is the unavoidable result of normal statistical variance, however, it does mean that now and again there will be a poll showing Remain with a small lead, which pro-Remain sorts will get wrongly overexcited about.

In terms of a trend, my impression is that there is some small degree of movement against Brexit… but it is very small. It is hard to discern a trend from questions asking the referendum question because they are infrequent, different companies use different methods and there may be different “house effects”. BMG have probably asked it more regularly than any other company, and looking at just their figures (in the link above) there is a slight trend towards Remain.

YouGov regularly ask a question about whether Britain was right or wrong to vote to Leave the EU (below), which also shows a very tight race, but a slight trend towards Remain. Last year it tended to show slightly more people thought it was the right decision than the wrong decision, now it tends to hover around neck-and-neck.

In summary, there hasn’t been any vast sea-change in attitudes towards Brexit. Most people who voted Remain would do so again, most people who voted Leave would do so again. There is some movement back and forth, but it mostly cancels itself out. If you look at the two most frequently repeated questions, the BMG question on referendum VI and the YouGov question on whether the decision was right or wrong, then there does appear to be movement towards Remain… but it is as yet pretty small and pretty slow. In short, there are some “bregrets”, but not enough to really get excited about. If there is going to be a big change, I still wouldn’t expect to see it until the leaving deal (and the consequences of it) become a bit clearer.


I’ve got an article over on the YouGov website about the difficulty on polling on the Brexit financial settlement (or “Brexit divorce bill” as the more Eurosceptic elements of the press tend to call it). Brexit is obviously a very complicated issue – the Brexit deal will almost inevitably dominate the next year of British politics, yet the complexities of it mean it’s very hard to ask about until there’s actually a deal on the table.

The financial settlement between Britain and the EU should, on the face of it, be one of the more simple issues. On the face of it you might expect it to be fairly simple to ask people what sort of financial settlement the public would think was reasonable and what sort of settlement would have the public thinking Theresa May has struck a poor deal. In fact such questions give us a very poor guide, simply because most people are not particularly good at comprehending very large numbers.

If you ask a question about what a reasonable price is for, for example, a pair of shoes, it should work very well. Everyone knows roughly what shoes cost, and know the value of £10 or £30 or £100. The same does not apply for government spending – £50 billion is an unfathomably large amount of money… but then, so is £20 billion, or £10 billion or £5 billion. Most of us don’t really have any good yardstick for judging just how big or small these huge numbers are, nor whether they are a good or bad deal for Britain.

Nevertheless, if you ask people about a financial settlement people will still express opinions. Back in August there was an ICM/Guardian poll that found 41% of people though a £10bn settlement would be acceptable, up from just 15% in April. This seemed like a startling rise, but as both ICM and the Guardian cautioned, it could just be the way the question was worded. In April ICM first asked about the lower figure of £3bn, but in August £10bn was the lowest they offered.

This seemed like a more plausible explanation to me, but just to be sure we tested it at YouGov. We used a split sample – one half of the respondents got a grid of three questions asking about settlements of £5bn, £10bn and £20bn. The other half of the sample got a grid of three questions asking about settlements of £25bn, £50bn and £75bn.

On the first bank of questions 38% thought £5bn would be acceptable, 18% thought £10bn would be acceptable, 11% thought that £20bn would be acceptable. Looking at the other half of the sample, 29% thought that £25bn was acceptable, 9% thought that £50bn was acceptable, 6% thought that £75bn would be acceptable (full tabs are here.)

Taken as a whole we get the the rather perverse finding that while support generally falls as the size of the settlement increases, £25 billion is far more acceptable to the public than £20 billion. This is nonsense of course, and the reason is simple enough – people take their cues from the question itself. In the first half of the sample, £5bn was the lowest amount asked about, £20bn the largest amount, and many respondents presumably took this as an implication that £5bn was a low settlement, £20bn a high one. For the second half of the sample £25bn was the lowest figure asked about, so many respondents presumably took the implication that this was a low settlement. Whether people said a sum was acceptable or not was less about the actual number, more about whether the question implied that it was a low or high figure.

The point is that questions about what level of “divorce bill” will be acceptable to the public don’t really tell us much. People don’t have any good way of telling what is a good or bad deal and are really just expressing their unsurprising preference for a smaller settlement. When (or if) Britain and the EU do finally agree on a sum, it won’t be so much the particular figure that determines whether the public see it as a victory or a sell-out, but whether the media and political class present it to them as a good or bad deal.

Meanwhile, lastest GB voting intention figures this week are below – both show the parties pretty much neck-and-neck, neither show any obvious movement:
YouGov/Times (12th-13th Sept) – CON 41%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 3%(-1) (tabs)
ICM/Guardian (8th-10th Sept) – CON 42%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 4%(+1) (tabs)


The Sunday Times at the weekend had a Panelbase poll of Scotland, their first since the general election. It doesn’t look like Westminster voting intention was asked, but they have figures for Holyrood constituency vote intention, I think the first figures we’ve had from anyone since way back in March (and the first from Panelbase since the Holyrood election in 2016). Topline figures there are SNP 42%(-5), CON 28%(+6), LAB 22%(-1), LDEM 6%(-2). These changes are from the 2016 election. The SNP continue to have a solid lead, but it’s no longer those 20 or 30 point leads we used to see back in 2016.

On Independence the topline figures were YES 40%(-1), NO 53%(nc), Don’t know 6%(nc). Changes are since June, and obviously don’t suggest any meaningful change. NO seem to have consolidated a double digit lead, not the sort of lead that couldn’t be overturned in a referendum campaign, but not the sort of lead I’d imagine would encourage Nicola Sturgeon to push for one too early.

On that question of timing for a referendum, 17% of peple would like a referendum in the immediate future, while Britain is negotiating to leave the EU, 26% would like a referendum after Britain has finishing negotiating to leave the EU, 58% don’t want one in the “next few years”. As I’ve written before, questions like this are very vulnerable to the timebands you offer, but when you add up the pro and anti answers they tend to fall in similar proportions to support for independence – those who’d like independence tend to favour a referendum on independence sometime soonish, those who don’t want independence anyway don’t particularly want a vote on it either. Full tabs for the Panelbase poll are here.

There is also a new YouGov poll of Wales, conducted for ITV and Cardiff University, and also the first since the general election. Westminster voting intention figures stand at CON 32%(-2), LAB 50%(+1), LDEM 4%(-1), Plaid 8%(-2), UKIP 3%(+1). Labour have strengthened their position marginally from what was already a very strong position.

Voting intentions for the Welsh Assembly are:
Constituency: CON 25%, LAB 43%, LDEM 5%, Plaid 19%, UKIP 4%
Regional: CON 23%, LAB 40%, LDEM 5%, Plaid 19%, UKIP 5%
According to Roger Scully if these figures were repeated at an actual Assembly election then on a uniform swing Labour would narrowly regain their majority with 31 Assembly seats.