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


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.

2,711 Responses to “EU referendum post-mortem”

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  1. Rich,

    It may seem “ludicrous” to you, but in a dignified interview Brendan Cox was asked if he might stand in his wife’s place. He replied that he was focused on the children but also that his wife would not be impressed to be replaced by a man.

    I think the Labour party will respect the clear wishes of both the Coxes and there will be another woman-only shortlist

  2. @ The Other Howard

    I talk to business people on both sides of the Atlantic too.

    Seriously, if you had a chance to enter into an economic agreement with a market with 430 million people in it or 65 million, which would be your priority?

    The focus right now in North America is working out an arrangement between all the “Pacific Rim” countries, including the 1 billion plus Chinese market. Europe is smaller and the UK miniscule compared to accessing the Chinese and other Asian markets like India.

    Capital has been very clear that they want simplified regulations so they can move money, services and components around at will.

    Will you be able to offset the capital flight to Europe and the EU, with capital from countries that only want to do business with the much smaller UK market?

    Most countries and companies will now sit back and wait and see what deal the UK can get, and in the interim you may see a complete slow down in both short and long term investment, plus capital flight on top.

    Yes the US love to use other countries (ie Canada) to leverage for their own interests, hence Canada negotiating a trade deal with the EU. Which the EU has not yet ratified, by the way.

    And are you not forgetting the possibility that countries that have trade deals with the EU, may be frowned upon for having separate deals with the UK.

    The EU now go from partners in co-operation to rivals in a global market, where the odds are 27 to 1 for the UK.

    @ Pete B

    Yes I am well aware of the English “bloody mindedness”, but hope you are prepared to get a “bloody nose”

    “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore” is fine as a tantrum, in the face of extreme frustration, but it is not a carefully planned “exit” with appropriate options lined up to keep, for example, the economy running and taxes being paid to pay for the NHS, social services, education, etc.

    As I kept on saying in the last Canadian GE in 2015 to my social democratic friends, it is fine to be mad at the Conservatives, but what is your plan and how and when do you plan to implement it.

    Boris Johnson saying we are in no hurry to “leave” and Nigel Farage declaring “Independence Day”, is not an alternate plan and explanation on how you are going to build the alternative economic and social agenda to the EU.

    When Moses lead the Hebrews out of Egypt he had a plan and Ten Commandments to live by. What is the vision of “Brexit” and the steps to implement it. Can you or anyone else please spell it out for me in some exact terms that I can understand and consider?.

    What experience do either Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson have in leading a country and negotiating in the current international capital climate?

    You just sacked the man who had that experience and he failed miserably at re-negotiating the deal you had. So what experience and knowledge do Boris or Nigel have to succeed where Cameron failed?

  3. @ADGE3

    To be clear, I was trying to set out the constitutional options available, rather than explore their political likelihood in any detail.

    At this stage I don’t think any UK politician will want to be seen to be contradicting the referendum result or seeking to overturn it with a second vote.

    Whether that position will hold throughout difficult negotiations and a poor outcome is a different matter. Likewise, the 27 at present are full steam ahead, if the UK position changes away from Brexit their view may also become more flexible.

    As eminent as the people you quote are, it would be interesting to hear from some Commission and other figures involved in the recent Greek travails, I expect they would give a different view as to how flexible the the EU can be when under pressure.

    So yes, I would agree, a second referendum may be a political non-starter at the moment, but I would not discount a recourse to it at a later date.

  4. @andrew,

    I completely disagree with that. we have a democracy, whatever awful things happen. Same point on all women shortlist.

  5. PETER CAIRNS (SNP)……Thanks Peter, my Scottish friends are a confident bunch and we share values, their preference is Scotland in UK, and Europe, but if a deal can now be struck they’ll happily look East.

  6. Looking like there’s the strange possibility that Corbyn and a handful of MPs will be the only ones left in the PLP in a few days, after all the others decide to start a different party.

  7. Mirror front page: “GO NOW”. Surely Corbyn can’t survive that from the biggest Labour paper.

  8. The arguments here are just pure surreal …

    I know that the Leavers have executed all experts, still … (I saw Roger Mexico putting out some meaningful figures, but these was contrasted with some opinion piece from some newspaper peppered with some private fantasies).

    I minor thing.

    Sorry, I won’t look it up who said it, while it is true that WSJ is a Murdoch paper, but if I remember correctly so is the Times, and it came out for remain.

  9. Rich,

    Jo Cox was selected on a woman only shortlist and I guess it is up to the Labour Party what happens, not me, but I would be astonished if a man was selected to replace her..

    I very much doubt if you have any say in the matter either…

  10. @ Jayblanc

    Is that pure conjecture or have you seen a report to that effect?

  11. Looks like Owen Jones is a Blairite.

  12. @andrew,

    Bit silly, of course I don’t. But I can’t stand all women shortlists. I would be the same on all men shortlists.

  13. @Laszlo

    Good evening. Not sure if your auto correct has got out of control again…

    There have been a few figures here, interspersed with the odd conversations, but no one seems much interested in polling at the moment.

    Strange that.

  14. @hawthorn,

    I thought Owen was mr anti establishment semi socialist.

  15. This England football defeat may have some benefits if makes some English people become less prone to delusions, but take more-aware more-balanced stances.

    It`s now clear that many LEAVE voters accepted without questioning what unscrupulous journalists and politicians were spinning.

    But our media and particularly the BBC still seem half asleep. On Radio 4 today there were still respected staff talking of how the nation will stay united – how can anybody aware and competent not realise that Britain has more than one nation, and this idle talk merely stirs up passions..

  16. Corbyn has to go. It must be tough when you have hard core support from the further left supporters you are most aligned to, but he can’t win an election, so has to go.

  17. Oh dear.

    A little too much free movement of people in the England penalty area.

  18. @Rich

    It’s not that he can’t win an election. It’s that his supporters and the party gave him direction that the party was going to support Remain, and he should cooperate with that support. And it’s coming out that he not only dragged his feet, but told his office not to cooperate.

  19. There’s a rally in support of Corbyn in Manchester tonight, but no one, including the BBC or PLP representatives seem able to say what will happen if Corbyn stands again, and is re-elected as seems likely..

  20. It looks like other parts of the Labour party are moving now, with a couple of Young Labour branches (including London Young Labour) coming out against him. BBC reports indicate they are expecting other noises in the regions tomorrow, at various levels, so it seems to be spreading beyond the PLP.

    Elsewhere, in an interesting move, Jeremy Hunt has come forward with a sort of plan, with the proviso that once a deal is agreed it should be subject to a second vote or a GE.

    His idea is dead in the water, in the sense that he thinks he can negotiate a deal without activating Article 50, which as we now all know was written precisely to prevent countries doing this. However, Hunt’s point that the exit deal was unknown so should be ratified democratically when settled is telling.

    I expect more politicians to coalesce around a similar line, and I remain reasonably confident that there will be a second vote on this issue before we leave.

  21. There is actually a petition for the rematch of England vs Iceland and it has 10,500 signatures – it seems to be real (and surreal).

  22. Sheffield Hallam CLP is having its AGM tomorrow, with two emergency motions – one telling Corbyn to shove off, another condemning the resignations. Painfully, it’s three days before I’m a member of that CLP so can’t vote.

    The FT has also just told Corbyn to quit – not so surprising you might think, but they were one of the few papers to back Neil Kinnock in 1992.

  23. Andy S
    ‘“I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore” is fine as a tantrum, in the face of extreme frustration, but it is not a carefully planned “exit” with appropriate options lined up to keep, for example, the economy running and taxes being paid to pay for the NHS, social services, education, etc.’

    That’s up to the politicians and bureaucrats to sort out. The Leave campaigns were denied access to relevant information to allow them to produce a detailed plan. Not only that, but they came from a number of different parties, so would have different ideas.

    “What experience do either Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson have in leading a country and negotiating in the current international capital climate?”

    Farage is not even an MP and Boris is not in the cabinet. As it stands neither will necessarily be involved. The hard yards will be done by civil servants. Boris could possibly be the figurehead if he wins the Tory leadership.

    Basically, the People have spoken and the servants of the People had better get the details sorted out sharpish.


    Yes, it’s my mistake (so I’m not blaming autocorrect just now) – but at least some people (including you) tried to put some sort of evidence to support his or her opinion. A gem to find…

  25. For some years I could see the current party structures falling apart.

    I think we may end up with three groups – on one side some socialist parties (Corbynistas and Greens), in the middle social democratic parties (Blairites and one nation Tories) and to the right some libertarian parties (Tory right wing plus perhaps UKIP).

    It has happened much quicker than I expected, but the sooner it happens, the sooner we can build a new, better democratic model.

    In this light, I think Mr Corbyn is doing our system a big favour.

  26. Times tweet

    “Times / YouGov
    Best new PM and Tory leader

    All voters(Tory voters in brackets)

    Theresa May 19 (31)
    Boris Johnson 18 (24)”

  27. @Mr Nameless

    The FT is written by and for financial experts who are more interested in fiscal stability than making a fast buck. So they’ve always leaned towards moderate socialism.

  28. @jayblanc,

    Yep I understand that, but he doesn’t have the broad appeal to win an election. Popular in student unions is one thing, but winning middle England is another.

  29. ON
    Interesting poll. May has played a clever game being removed from the fray, but her health is apparently dubious, and PM is a very stressful job apparently – even for Lazy Davy. You’ve only got to look at her. She looks ill.

  30. Get your money on May, Cons never pick the front runner.

  31. Candy
    Unfortunately that link wants money. I don’t like paying for half-baked opinions when I can get them on here for nothing. :-)

  32. @CANDY

    Here we go again! Cherry picking anything that suits your view……

    Let’s not forget that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected.

  33. Scotland has been talking to Gibraltar and one plan seem to be a Greenland scenario with England & Wales as Greenland. Of course Scotland wouldn’t be independent in this scenario but first priority is keeping Scotland in the EU

  34. @ Candy

    “Lovely article in the New Statesman”


    Actually it is just another tea leaves reading nonsense.

  35. “I put it down to the nanny State, dependency culture, and a lack of vision…”


    you really shouldn’t do down banking so much Ken!!…

  36. @ Cooper2802

    I really don’t know if it feasible.

    it really seems to me that none of these politicians (I’m happy to take out the SNP from this qualification) have had any idea.

    Obviously the UK as EU member can’t be (in reality) Scotland, Gibraltar, maybe NI and the Isle of Mann. However, Scotland cannot be forced unless the Act of Scotland is modified, which then triggers an immediate, and likely successful, independence referendum, while Westminster is still thinking who should be the scapegoat to press the button for Article 50 after an extremely bruising HoC debate.

  37. @PeteB

    It’s not behind a paywall, it’s working for me


    Still in the Anger stage of Grief, are you? :-)

  38. Laszlo

    “I really don’t know if it feasible.”

    None of us do- but it’s the only feasible strategy that could keep Scotland (& NI if they wish) in the UK and the EU (Gibraltar in the EU and linked to UK).

    The strategy is to maximise support for attempts to keep Scotland in the EU. This motion will be supported by SNP, SGP, SLD and SLP tomorrow

    “That the Parliament welcomes the overwhelming vote of the people of Scotland to remain in the European Union; affirms to citizens of other EU countries living here that they remain welcome and that their contribution is valued; mandates the Scottish Government to have discussions with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, the EU institutions and member states to explore options for protecting Scotland’s relationship with the EU, Scotland’s place in the single market and the social, employment and economic benefits that come from that, and instructs the Scottish Government to report back regularly to parliamentarians, to the European and External Relations Committee and the Parliament on the progress of those discussions and to seek Parliament’s approval of the outcome of that process.”

    Should those efforts be unsuccessful, and only an indy Scotland can stay in the EU, then things will move on.

  39. So, the path ahead looks like…

    A Johnson-Grayling-Hunt government flatly refuses to invoke article 50 until after there have been meaningful negotiations, possibly even until after the rest of the EU has agreed a trade deal in which the UK gets all the rights of EEA membership with none of the responsibilities.

    The rest of the EU flatly refuses to start negotiations, let alone agree anything, until after article 50 has been invoked.

    The result is that no negotiations ever take place, and article 50 is never invoked.

    And if Nigel Farage complains about it, any half-decent spin doctor, if s/he can get the co-operation of a couple of key newspaper proprietors, can portray him as trying to take a softer line, in the (non-)negotiations with the EU, than the government, especially if British ministers are making a big show of being disruptive at meetings of the Council of Ministers.

    Could that buy enough time for someone to think of a longer-term solution?

  40. I think article 50 will be invoked, I’m sure of it, but the new PM will want an agreement to backtrack if he/she wants to and put any new terms to the people in another referendum. This soap opera could go on for a while. It’s like House of Cards (the original UK version).

  41. CARFREW……Wouldn’t dream of it, turns out they are our saviours, if we upset ’em, they up sticks to a red carpet welcome in Frankfurt or Paris, everybody wants the bankers now, full rehabilitation, no remorse forthcoming though. ;-)

  42. @HDAN

    Article 50 will be invoked, it will cause an almighty backlash if it’s not.

    The reason for waiting till Sept 2nd (when the new PM is in place) seems to be because we need to get a few other ducks in a row.

    The FT is reporting that the United States has issued a warning to the EU not to be vengeful. And it is possible that what will happen is we trigger Article 50 at the same time as announcing commencement of talks on other trade deals, the idea being to put pressure on the EU into understanding we have other options. (If one of those is with the Americans, it means we would be getting access to a market as big as the EUs anyway).

    Meanwhile the falling pound also puts pressure on a few vulnerable EU points. See the following Bloomberg article exploring which European car makers are most threatened:


    Basically a few months dealing with a low pound and falling sales should encourage them to put pressure on their leaders, and soften them up before we start negotiating.

    But the strategy does require people to stop being nervous nellies and hold their nerve.


    There is no problem with Scotland using Sterling. Panama and Ecuador use the Dollar quite happily. However, a consequence of using Sterling would be that Scotland could not have a Central Bank.

    This leads to a problem: Without a Central Bank, Scotland would be unable to start the work on acquis Chapter 17 (Economic and Monetary policy).

    I’m happy to see another person knows how Sweden avoided joining the Euro. I’ve spent 5 years, on-and-off, working for Riksbanken, and I know the individual who spotted the loophole and got the politician’s agreement to use it.

  44. The crunch for Jeremy Corbyn would be that the Unions remove their support but I don’t think journalists will persuade him if the mass resignations don’t.

  45. The so-called Greenland option is monsense. Scotland cannot be a successor to the national government and neither England nor Wales are being extracted from the United Kingdom.

  46. @MBRUNO

    Because you’d know better than the lawyers advising Gibraltar and Scotland.

  47. Candy

    I have replied to your comment twice and hit auto mod both times for some reason. Basically your idea of concurrent trade talks is a good idea and one that I hope will be followed.

  48. Corbyn

    If Lab want to exorcise the ghost of Iraq then they need someone like Corbyn in charge when Chilcott finally comes out.

    Hence the timing of this attempted coup.

    Personally them not exorcising that ghost is better for me but seeing Blair, Straw and Campbell getting well deserved buckets of sh*te poured over them is too much to resist.

    They can get rid of him after Chilcot if they like.

  49. The BBC is continually raising the idea of a snap general election. Can someone please confirm that under the fixed term parliament act, it is no longer in the PMs gift to call one, without 75% of the HOC agreeing.

    My view is that a GE is the last thing labour would want just now. They need the next 4 years to re-form under a new leader surely? Without them, it’s a non runner.

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