View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
30 July 2018

Brexit is good! Wait, no, Brexit is bad! What’s up with the polls?

The pollsters might not yet have fixed their 2015 problem.

By Stephen Bush

Only the hardest of Brexits will do! Voters are turning against the Conservative Party following Theresa May’s Chequers proposals, with the main direct beneficiary a resurgent Ukip and the indirect beneficiary a Labour party that now has, on average, a small lead over the Tories despite not having gained any new support itself.

But the polls also show a small but stable majority in the country at large would opt for a Remain vote if it were held again. According to the latest Sky Data poll – which surveys a representative sample of the population as a whole drawn from Sky subscribers – Remain has opened up a significant lead in the polls in the first survey that followed the first public stories about what planning for a “no deal” Brexit would look like. The poll also shows an across the board collapse in confidence in the government’s ability to negotiate Brexit. What’s going on?

There are a couple of important caveats here: the first is that it’s just one poll. It’s really better just to wait and see, to look at the rolling average before making any rash judgements about what the polls are saying.

The bigger one is that we still don’t know for sure how successful the pollsters have been at compensating for the problems uncovered by the Sturgis inquiry into the 2015 polling disaster, when all the pollsters missed the Conservative lead. The evidence of the 2017 election – when all but one of the pollsters got the result wrong – suggests that some of the changes made may have aggravated rather than fixed the problem. Even the one pollster which got the result right – Survation – doesn’t yet appear to have solved some of the industry-wide problems, chiefly that the people who respond to polls are too politically engaged, which means they respond in ways that ordinary voters don’t.

Has that issue been resolved? Well, we simply don’t know. But frankly, I don’t buy that the vast majority of people have noticed the still very small number of stories about no deal and I am dubious, too, about the level at which the Chequers proposal can have permanently moved voters. I have seen no evidence of that kind of cut-through – not least because the warnings about a no deal Brexit never even made it onto music radio, the number one place that relatively apolitical voters get their news from. I may be wrong, but I’m not convinced that the pollsters’ 2015 problems have entirely gone away.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU