This evening’s rolling polling coverage as the economy and undecideds could win it for Remain

June 18th, 2016

We’re starting to see swings back to Remain, even in most of the polls conducted before the events of Thursday. YouGov sees a 4% swing in a week

And the one poll conducted entirely after Thursday shows a 3% swing to Remain



ComRes poll finds voters feel more positive about leaving the EU than they do about staying

June 18th, 2016

44% would be “delighted” by a Leave vote; only 28% by a Remain vote

ComRes have conducted an online poll for the Independent on Sunday/People, whilst the poll doesn’t ask a EU referendum voting intention question, because ComRes prefer their phone polls for the EURef, the supplementaries are fascinating.

Labour voters are more than twice as likely as Conservative voters to say they would feel terrified if Britain votes to leave the EU next week (39% leave v 17% remain). Conservative voters are divided on this (26% leave v 25% remain).Conversely, Conservative voters are more likely than Labour voters to say they will feel delighted in the result of Britain voting to leave the EU (43% v 31%).

But was there an impact from the murder of Jo Cox?

Andrew Hawkins, Chairman of ComRes, says

We have provided an additional crossbreak to split out respondents interviewed before 2pm on Thursday and those interviewed afterwards.  Of course, not all respondents will have learned of the attack immediately, so it is reasonable to assume that the cut-off may under-measure reaction to the news. 

The comparisons are slightly contradictory across all of the questions, and the results should be taken with a degree of caution, since the pre-2pm sample comprised 1854 respondents and the post-2pm sample only 192.

Nevertheless…across ALL factors reaction to a Leave vote is more negative post-2pm.

It is just possible that the post-2pm sample varies from the pre-2pm one enough to create this more negative impact for Leave.  But it is also intuitive to assume that there will have been some impact, even if only marginal, of Thursday’s events.  And not all of those post-2pm respondents will have heard the news by the time they participated in the survey.

But due to the size of the sample, we should wait until the first poll conducted entirely after her murder before drawing any conclusions,  but many people wont be surprised if these ComRes findings are replicated in a full poll.

ComRes also asked a Westminster VI question, the results are Con 34% (-2) Lab 29% (-1) LD 8% (NC) UKIP 19% (+2) Green 4% (NC) SNP 5% (NC) Other 1% (NC)

Opinium also conducted an EURef poll, which was Remain 44 (nc) Leave 44 (+2) but the majority of the fieldwork was before 2pm on Thursday.



Britain’s original sins?

June 18th, 2016


A common thread in both the Remain and Leave campaigns is that the EU is something that is done by them to us.  Crudely, Leave wants no more of this.  And, equally crudely, Remain are saying that if we go what they will do to us (or even what we will do to ourselves by leaving) will be “such revenges…….such things, what they are, yet I know not: but they shall be the terrors of the earth.” 

But Britain has not been a passive victim.  Its actions and failures to act, its failure to think strategically about its place in the world are important reasons why the relationship between Britain and the EU is the neuralgic mess it appears to be.  Here are my 5 examples of what Britain has done wrong and what we might, whatever the result, learn from them.

1) Not joining from the start.

Had Britain joined from the start it would and could have fashioned a structure and approach much more in tune with itself, it would have felt a sense of ownership and pride in its creation and it would have had and felt a sense of control over its development, all factors missing now and reasons why so many voters appear to be leaning towards Leave.  The reasons why it did not were noble ones. But there was nonetheless a strategic error.

At a time when Britain had – even in its exhausted economic and physical state – immense moral and political credit within Europe and an opportunity to take leadership, it chose not to.  Arguably, Britain failed to learn the lesson from the previous great European war – not WW1 – but the war against Revolutionary then Napoleonic France when Britain at the Congress of Vienna helped re-establish a European settlement, a settlement which allowed Britain to concentrate on its Imperial ambitions and industrial development.  130 years later should the demands of Empire and internal reconstruction have diverted Britain from thinking properly about its role in the creation of an equally stable European settlement? Winning the war should have been the start not the end of the process.

2) Suez

This is seen as a British disaster.  But it was a Franco-British disaster.  And the differing reactions of France and Britain are interesting: France took the message that the US would act in its own interests and that it should look to a strong Europe in which France would play a key role.  Britain decided to cleave as closely as possible to the US so as never to be humiliated again.

Whatever the consequences of that it meant that Britain did not think hard enough about what its role in the world – and Europe in particular – should be.  Being the plump friend of the most popular girl/biggest bully in class is not really a role, more an act of desperation out of fear of being left out.

3) When it joined it did so out of economic weakness.

Britain lacked self-confidence, was seen as the sick man of Europe and looked on in disbelief and envy at a Continent that seemed to be powering ahead despite having been defeated.  That this humiliation should be suffered by the country that won the war was seen as unfair.  The Common Market was the future then.  That lack of confidence persisted for some time and fed a belief that this was the only way in which it could regain its former greatness. Emotion is important in decision-making, of course, but it works best if there is also a hard edge of cool rational thought.  Joining late at a time of economic weakness, with feelings of low self-esteem, resentment and unfairness and resulted – perhaps – in Britain never fully thinking through and articulating to itself what it was joining and why and what the consequences for Britain really were.

4) Politics

The political class has refused to accept the essentially political nature of the EU project.  It has alternately tried to pretend that these were just words or did not matter or would not affect us.  It has never really levelled with the voters about this.  Its explanation has been that the voters wouldn’t have it.  But it was never really tried.  The EU was seen as a “foreign” issue when really it should have been seen, treated and sold as a domestic matter.

Britain’s membership of the EU was far too important for the voters here to be left in the hands of the Foreign Office.  It has had one baleful consequence: the voters have been ignored.  The FCO – of all departments – is the one least concerned about what British voters want or say. That distance between the EU-political-bureaucratic class in Britain and voters is now plain to all in the immigration debate.

Underestimating the EU’s fundamentally political nature has also meant that Britain has underestimated what other EU states want.  So Mrs Thatcher gave up many vetoes in the Single European Act to get her beloved single market but did not appreciate that others states and the EU itself were not so interested in the market side and would use those powers to take steps which Britain did not want.

5) What is Britain’s role in the EU?

 Britain has had no real European strategy.  It’s been all about tactics: a victory here, a veto there, a handbagging here, an opt-out there.  Germany is in the EU to stop Germany going mad and destroying half the Continent.  France is there because it sees itself as Europe’s natural leader with a superior bureaucratic caste and wants to keep a very close eye on its neighbour.  Italy is there because the EU gives it better governance than its homegrown politicians ever did.  The former Warsaw Pact countries are there because the EU provides an infinitely better home than their previous prison.

Why is Britain there?  The failure to articulate this has led to empty slogans followed by rows and tantrums and sulks.  It is unedifying and best calculated to annoy others rather than get them on your side. Too often it has been about what it doesn’t want.  And it has never really articulated a strategy for the EU that might have been attractive to other EU states.

History?  Maybe.  But whatever the result, 4 and 5 are still relevant: Britain will need to articulate a strategy for its relationship with the EU, whether in or out.  And to do that it will need to tell us what the EU really means.  Is our political class up to this task?  Something more than a version of Marshall’s “Our Island Story” and some Latin sayings are surely needed.



BMG polls brings good news for both sides

June 18th, 2016

The modal differences strikes backs

BMG have conducted simultaneous online and phone polls. The online poll sees what we’ve seen in other recent polls, with a significant swing to Leave, giving Leave a 10% lead. BMG’s debut EURef poll does give Remain a 7% lead,BMG themselves say they prefer their phone poll over the online poll because of understanding which way undecideds will go and that Remainers are harder to contact. BMG say

Why impute voting intention for Undecideds and Refusals?

It is our view that using predicted voting intentions to impute voting intentions for undecideds and refusals is preferable and more accurate than existing methods of excluding undecideds and refusals.

One of the key lessons taken from the polling industry’s failure to call the 2015 General Election was that key indicators (i.e. leadership and economic approval), were consistently pointing towards a different, and what turned out to be, a more accurate reflection of the state of the parties. In the case of the EU referendum it is our view that simply excluding the undecideds and/or refusers is in itself a judgement about how they will vote (i.e. that they will do so in the same proportion to those who have already responded). Consequently we feel that it is more objective to allocate missing information based on prior estimates derived from their views, in this case their sentiment towards the EU.

To this end, BMG has created an EU sentiment index based on respondents’ views to a series of statements about Britain’s relationship with the EU. The sentiment index is designed to build an understanding of the relationship between key statements and voting intention and thereafter infer the likely voting intentions of undecideds and refusals.

The statements are asked before all voting intention questions. This has the added benefit of asking respondents to think about the major arguments in the campaign prior to asking the voting intention question. We believe it also sparks respondents to consider the arguments as they would on polling day, with the intention of getting them closer to what could be termed ‘the ballot box mindset’.

From this series of questions each respondent is assigned a score based on their response. The higher the score, the more positive the sentiment towards the EU, and vice versa. In order to use the score to impute values for undecideds, the predictive power of the index was modelled in a multivariate regression along with other key variables such as age and social grade (both of which appear to be important determinants of voting intention.)

With the tweet at the top of this piece, it is clear that it is easier to contact Leavers, BMG themselves say

it is interesting to note that the call data from our latest telephone survey implies that, to some extent, pursuing respondents, whether through re-calling or person-to-person interaction on the phone, may be crucial in encouraging ‘harder-to-reach’ respondents to participate. Our results suggest that after one dial, the raw data gives Remain around a 1 point lead, whereas after the second dial the Remain lead is more than five and a half points, before settling at around four points after three calls or more. This suggests that conducting surveys too quickly or skimming through telephone data may underestimate Remain voters. 

Overall the polling does fit what people were expecting,  don’t knows end up sticking with better the devil EU know, but in the online poll, Leave have the momentum. Both sides would be wise to not ignore the polling that is bad for them, Remain should note that the momentum appears to be with Leave, which reflects poorly on Remain’s campaign and the strategy and tactics therein, whilst Leave should note that there’s a potential for another polling disaster because of the samples not being representative.

The fieldwork for these BMG polls were conducted entirely before the murder of Jo Cox.



The EURef might be more like the AV referendum and not the Indyref

June 17th, 2016

A lot of people, myself included, have often drawn comparisons between the EU referendum and the Scottish independence referendum, but perhaps the better comparison is with the AV referendum of 2011.

The similarities are uncanny

  1. David Cameron is perceived to have betrayed his political allies by taking a high profile role in the campaign against them, which speaks of the naiveté of his opponents. What were they expecting to him to do. did they expect him to wilfully lose the referendum? If Tory Leavers were expecting David Cameron to sit the EU referendum out, they might be better off looking for a nun in a whorehouse.
  2. The focus of referendum has been portrayed as an opportunity to kick an unpopular politician rather than look at the merits of the argument. Had the AV referendum focused purely on the merits of AV, then I’m sure the undoubted merits of AV would have ensured a triumph for Yes2AV.
  3. We’ve had contested claims about the cost of AV/membership of the EU which have dominated the agenda and how that money might be better spent in the NHS (see the tweet above.)
  4. The Yes2AV/Remain have handled the cost angle badly, to the  point many voters believe the contested figures, even when many people making the claims admit their figures are dubious.
  5. Matthew Elliot was the Campaign Director for the No2AV side, this time he is the Chief Executive of Leave side (which might explain items 3 and 4 in this list.)
  6. There’s been a large swing in the campaign. In May 2010 Yes2AV  led by nearly 30% in the polls, in June 2015 Remain led by 44%, within a year those massive leads had been wiped out.
  7. David Cameron might have chosen the worst option for the Tory party, the electoral reform society calculated that the Tories would have gained more seats/had a larger majority if the 2015 general election had been fought under AV, there are those who think it might be in the best interest of the Tory party if Leave won.



Roger on a step change in negative political advertising

June 17th, 2016


“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx

Exactly six weeks ago in my first header on the campaign from an advertising perspective I wrote “The advantages of a negative campaign by REMAIN are obvious, the unknown can be made to seem a scary place. By contrast for the LEAVERS dystopian visions are a difficult sell when the EU has been with us for 40 years.”

I could hardly have been more wrong.

After three weeks of shambolic campaigning by LEAVE which seemed to consist of Boris on a whistle stop tour and little else Nigel Lawson appeared on Question Time and to an innocuous  question about EU enlargement claimed a vote for REMAIN was to risk 77 million Turks at our border. It sounded ridiculously far fetched but there was an audible gasp from the audience.

Meanwhile the well oiled machine that was REMAIN brought the Saatchis on board and a lot of speculation about whether this was the signal for the campaign to go dirty.  To date their campaign had consisted of some rather dodgy sums from the Treasury and a procession of the great and the good – up to and including the POTUS – extolling the virtues of REMAIN.

The entire Establishment with the most feared agency in the land were now facing a rag tag of amateurs who were making it up as they went along. 60/40 in favour of REMAINING looked about right.

Then the first campaign broadcast. A surprisingly upbeat effort from REMAIN where we saw 14 month old Sam and the bright future he could expect if we REMAINED in the EU. It was bland and predictable and the message clear. ‘We’re in the lead. Don’t rock the boat’

LEAVE by contrast produced a piece of work that was brutal. A truly apocalyptic vision of the UK if we remained in the EU. It was dark the graphics were crude and a split screen showed the fate of a sick and elderly woman suffering at the hands of an  NHS swamped by foreigners. It made three connections. Public services will be overrun by 77 million Turks, £350 million is being paid weekly to the EU and leaving would mean we could spend this money on ‘our own’.

At first the reaction was muted. It was aimed at elderly Labour voters. It seemed too exaggerated to convince a wider audience and the tone and content more ‘BNP’ than one likely to be taken seriously by a mainstream British audience.

But then a strange thing happened. The messages began to be repeated and not just by elderly Labour voters. Every vox pop seemed to include ‘Turkey’ and more worrying for REMAIN the connection was being made between ‘Turkey’ ‘£350 million’ and ‘public services’.

The following week the same broadcast was repeated and by this time it had become reinforced by the infamous Turkish poster and had become the campaign theme of the Boris travelling circus.

Then the polls shifted. Not a point or two but a complete turnaround. And not a single pollster but all of them. The message was being parroted everywhere.

When ‘Labour isn’t Working’ came out in 1979 Denis Healey said in the House of Commons ‘The people in it are not genuinely unemployed. You’re selling politics like washing powder’. Ironically the only advertising with no rules is political advertising. Had it been for a washing powder it wouldn’t have got through.

Over the intervening 37 years political advertising has become more negative and more effective. The poster of Miliband in Salmond’s pocket has been credited with turning a hung parliament into a Tory victory.

Though commonplace in America this is a step change for this country. We’ve never had anything like it from a mainstream campaign and we’ve never seen a single negative broadcast resonate or turn a campaign as this has done.

When Boris stands on the steps of Downing Street and delivers the immortal lines “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty we’re free at last.” I wonder whether the world will feel as admiring of his campaign as they did MLK’s.


Roger, who has had a long and successful career in advertising has been posting on PB since 2004


EU Referendum turnout betting

June 17th, 2016

SPIN EURef Turnout

Sporting Index have a market up on the referendum turnout. Alastair Meeks tipped it when it was 62, but I still think at its current mid price of 68 it is still a buy for the following reasons

  1. With Leave looking like they could win, it will motivate Leave voters to turnout and ensure victory.
  2. Remain voters who might have stayed at home if the polls were showing a comfortable Remain victory will now be motivated to turnout.
  3. With Individual Voter Registration it has seen a cut in the number of voters, which might boost turnout as a percentage.

With both sides hyping up the implications of the result of the referendum, you can see why voters might see this as an epochal referendum, so boosting turnout to a level above last year’s general election.

The 1975 referendum turnout was significantly lower than the previous general election, however that referendum took place a little over two years after Le Royaume-Uni had joined the European Community, so enough of the country knew of what life was like before we joined the EC, so leaving might not have been seen as much as a risk as it is being perceived in this referendum.



Politics doesn’t matter today

June 16th, 2016

Both campaigns have rightly suspended their campaigns, the only focus should be on hoping Jo Cox makes a full and speedy recovery.