The bad news for Remainers in the latest Guardian poll on Brexit

European referendum ballot paper

At first sight, the headlines are good, very good in fact, for Remainers when it comes to the latest Guardian poll on Europe. It shows a 58% – 42% solid lead* for people wanting a referendum on the exact terms of Brexit when we know what they are.

A big lead and one that fits a pattern of shifting views found with other polling. So break out the Euro-bunting?

Not quite.

For one thing, the wording is the sort of wording likely to give the largest pro-referendum result:

I think the public should have the chance to take a final decision on whether or not to leave the EU in another referendum when the outcome of the negotiation is known?

It’s a regular finding of polling that people like saying ‘yes’ to ‘should the public have a say?’ in all sorts of forms. What’s more the question was in the agree/disagree format which tends to boost support for agree. Ashcroft’s recent polling on this topic also showed how sensitive public opinion can be to different wording formulation.

That said, it’s pretty standard caveat-land for any poll to say ‘beware the wording’ just after you say ‘beware listening to much to just one poll’. (Just as it’s pretty standard in social media land to ignore both caveats…!)

More caveats, however, apply in this case. There’s a further technical one: a question with this wording hasn’t been used before, so we don’t know what the trend is.

The bigger caveat, however, is a political one.

To win Remainers need to convince people to change their minds. Celebrating and welcoming examples of people changing their minds can in turn help more change their minds (and here’s one way to do that). The problem is if that becomes a substitute instead and therefore people don’t put the necessary work into changing minds.

You only have to see how common it is for Remain supporters to insult rather than welcome a change of mind from Leavers to have sensible doubts about how well keyed-in some Remainers are to the need to persuade people to change their minds.

All the more so as the lead for a remain vote in a putative further referendum is usually slim in the polls. For such a referendum to happen and to be won, it needs to be much larger, consistently.

Read very selectively, polls such as The Guardian‘s provide a nice positive respite from the harder work of conversion, but they should be treated as just that and no more.

Remember, even this poll found only 51% now in favour of Britain being in the EU. Only 51%. That’s a sign of how much more there is to do.


* Excluding 19% don’t knows. Throw in another caveat, why don’t you?

3 responses to “The bad news for Remainers in the latest Guardian poll on Brexit”

  1. A good post on the caveats and details

    Some of the details though are also encouraging for remainers. It was a large poll – five times the normal sample size. And it shows that young people are more likely to actually go and out and vote in a new referendum. Arguably the referendum was lost on differential turnout.

    You are right to say the result of a referendum as we have seen before depend on how the arguments are put and framed. And as we have also seen before referendums are volatile – much more than elections were a large bedrock of support will always support “their” party unless really provoked!

  2. Your caveat on opinion poll support for “the public having a chance to take a final decision” is well put. I reckon quite a number of keen brexiteers are warming to the idea of “sticking it to us” once again. The real indicator we need to watch is “if you voted now would you shift from leave to remain.”

  3. Venture below the line in the ultra-Remain Guardian, and you’ll see comment after comment from those calling for a second Referendum that seem to believe winning ‘hearts and minds’ to their cause should centre around insulting, patronising and denigrating ‘Brexshitters’, who (apparently) are all too stupid/gullible/don’t know any better, and need saving from themselves! That, or claiming the Referendum was ‘only advisory’ (despite pledges from both Remain and Leave to ‘implement the result’ from the get-go), ‘null and void’ due to ‘cheating’ (Cambridge Analytica/Leave campaign expenses, yet conveniently forgetting the tax-payer-funded, multi-million pound government Remain propaganda campaign), that ‘only 37% voted Leave’ (claiming all non-voters for the status-quo!), or the various incarnations of how ‘it’s all Corbyn’s fault’ (including but not limited to, not campaigning for Brexit enough, he’s a hard brexiteer, if he came out fully against Brexit it could be stopped, he’s ignoring Labour members, is a Russian spying, anti-Semitic, communist dictatoring anti-British Stalinist Momentum puppet who should stand down immediately for the good of the country, etc, etc, etc!)
    Personally, I believe that holding the Referendum in the first place wasn’t exactly the brightest of Tory ideas! However, the result was, that that more people voted Leave than Remain – so, as a matter of democracy, the cross-Party pledge to honour the result must be upheld, and we have a duty to make the best of it!
    Sadly, the Conservatives seem to be making a right pig’s ear of negotiations, (who’d have guessed?) with their rather combatic, ‘us versus them’ stance – and as for who’ve they’ve put in charge? Unlike the Opposition’s Brexit Minister, a highly experienced negotiator and former head of the the DPP, we have David Davis…!? Then again, taking into account the track record of the current Foreign Minister, I’m not sure what less we were to expect!

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