A non-excitable update on the latest Brexit polling

News that BMG had found a 11 point lead* for the Remain side in any Euro-referendum re-run understandably got Remain campaigners rather excited.


Any poll significantly out of kilter with others needs to be treated with caution. Sometimes the outlier is the one that’s rogue. Sometimes too, more rarely but definitely not never, the outlier is the one whose organisers are going to get to dine out on being pollsters of the year for bravely sticking with a different approach. That’s why trends are so useful to look at (as in, for example, one of my previous Euro polling posts).

There has been quite a bit of Euro polling recently, so what’s the rounded picture from looking at more than just the poll with the biggest headline?

As Anthony Wells points out, there’s good reasons to be cautious about the BMG poll:

The large Remain lead is almost wholly down to people who did not vote in the 2016 referendum. Many polls show those who did not vote in 2016 now saying they would vote remain, but the divide in this one is extreme. I am somewhat sceptical about leads that rely upon people who didn’t vote last time suddenly turning out to vote one way or another (particularly in polls that aren’t weighted by likelihood to vote!). While I am sure that there are some people who didn’t vote in 2016 who would now (those who have turned 18 and those who didn’t realise how close it would be), I suspect the sort of “non-voters” who turn up in opinion polls are rather more likely to vote than actual non-voters.

Looking at the run of BMG polls, there does however seem to be a slight trend towards Remain before the dramatic 11 point lead. The latest may turn out to be a rogue, but even without it you can see a switch taking place over the run of previous polls:
BMG Euro referendum polling trend

Other recent polls from ICM had Remain up by 3 points and YouGov had a 1 point lead for ‘wrong to leave’ rather than ‘right to leave’ when people were asked their views of the decision made.

As Anthony Wells concludes,

if you look at the referendum VI [voting intention] questions from Survation and BMG, or the right/wrong decision question from YouGov, there does appear to be a genuine movement towards Remain since last year… but as yet it is only small, and the country remains quite finely divided between Remain and Leave.

Also of relevance is the polling on what people want to happen next: should MPs or the public get a substantive vote on any Brexit deal? Answers here vary rather depending on the exact question wording.

Once we know what terms the government has negotiated, should there be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, where voters can choose between leaving under the terms negotiated or remaining in the EU after all?
37%: Yes – there should be a second referendum once the government has negotiated the terms of leaving the EU
49%: No – there should not be a second referendum after the government has negotiated the terms of leaving the EU
14%: Don’t know

Once the Brexit negotiations are complete and the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU have been agreed, do you think there should or should not be a referendum to accept or reject them?
33%: Should
42%: Should not
24%: Don’t know

and a different question from the same pollster:

Once Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union have been completed, what do you think should happen?
32%: There should be a vote of the British people to decide whether or not to accept the deal
21%: Parliament should vote on whether or not to accept the deal
33%: Britain should proceed to leave the EU without a second referendum or a vote of Parliament
14%: Not sure

When you also add in that opinions can change, there’s very much all to play for. Some polls show most people wanting a second referendum, others that it would only take a small swing in public opinion to get there. And the way to move public opinion is to campaign.

* Also reported as 10 points; this variation is to do with rounding – do you take the lead from the full figures or from the rounded figures?

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