BMG’s latest EU Referendum voting intention poll for the Independent show Remain recording its largest lead over Leave in two years.
The poll of 1,508 adults conducted between 4th and 7th December asked respondents: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” (identical to the question that appeared on the ballot paper for the 2016 EU referendum).
52% of respondents said the UK should remain a member of the European Union, compared to 40% that said the UK should leave. 8% answered either don’t know or prefer not to say.
Once respondents are asked which way they are leaning (via our so-called ‘squeeze’ question), the result show that 53% want to remain and 42% want to leave, some 5% say that they don’t knows/PNTS.
Our headline figure is 56% for Remain and 44% for Leave.
While it should be noted that changes since November are within the margin of error, the results do continue a wider trend of Remain leads since the turn of the year.
These latest results for December confirm that Leave has failed to record a lead over Remain in our monthly tracker for the whole of 2018.
Three short notes for those interpreting these results
While it is tempting to conclude from these results that Remain are ‘way out in front’, readers should be cautious with how they interpret this poll. This is for three main reasons which we take in turn:
- The Remain lead is not coming from voters who have changed their mind since 2016. Around 9 in 10 of those that reported voting Leave in 2016 say they would still vote to Leave, with the same share of Remain voters indicating that would still vote to Remain. Our polling now consistently shows that those who did not vote in 2016 are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. 63% of those voters who did not vote last time said they would vote to Remain, compared to just 22% that said they would vote to Leave. The remaining 14% said don’t know or prefer not to say. This accounts for much of the lead, and we should be cautious to conclude that these voters actually turnout in any future contest.
- The poll comes at a particularly turbulent time politically for the Government. In December last year our polling recorded a similar lead for Remain, only for the lead to be wiped out again the following month. During that time much was being made in the press about the UK’s failure to progress to the next stage of the Brexit negotiations following interventions from the DUP. Events in the last month have been equally, if not more turbulent for Theresa May, following a series of Government resignations and considerable doubt over whether the Prime Minister will be able to get her deal through Parliament. If events were to settle in the next few months, we might expect the Remain lead to narrow as it did before.
- The poll, does not account for voters who are not eligible, nor registered to vote. Detailed research from the Electoral Commission shows that only five out of every six adults (~84%) who are eligible tovote are actually registered. Also, a small but significant proportion of the UK adult population are actually ineligible to vote at UK General Elections and the EU Referendum (as it was in 2016). Indeed, according to statistics released by the Office for National Statistics on 29th November 2018, an estimated 5.1% of the UK population (~3,276,000 UK residents) are estimated to be EU citizens (this figure is excluding the citizens of the Republic of Ireland who are eligible to vote in UK General Elections). It is thought that the number of UK residents who are not eligible to vote at UK General Elections is in excess of 4 million (~8%) of adults living in the UK. Interestingly, although this population is small, they vote disproportionately in favour of remaining in the EU, by an estimated ratio of 19:1 once don’t know’s are excluded (please note that the sample size for this group is just 165).
From January, BMG will begin to report figures that are adjusted for the electoral registration of those polled for headline figures only. These adjustments are likely to mean results will shift slightly, but the story will still be the same. The polling team will also, in time, look to re-estimate previously published tracking data accordingly.
How to interpret the findings
Readers should note that there is good evidence that there has been a small long-term shift towards Remain over time. However, this change has come from people that did not vote in 2016, and may ot vote again.
Also, this poll cannot be used to evidence support for another referendum on EU membership. The wording does not address this question directly, and it is perfectly plausible that many voters will suggest that they have not chaged their mind, and would vote a particular way if there was another referendum today, but at the same time is expecting the government to get on with Brexit.
An accurate methodology
This poll shares the same methodology as BMG’s pre-Referendum polling, which consistently reported Leave ahead in the run-up to the EU referendum in 2016, and also called the correct outcome.
This approach now has the added benefit of an additional weighting variable; i.e. how respondents voted, if at all, at the EU Referendum in 2016. This is the only major change to our approach since. Although, at the time BMG favoured it’s telephone poll, having published the phone and online polls simultaneously, which can be found here (see table 9 on page 89), BMG has continued to favour the online methodology since the referendum in order to ensure that the results are both accurate and comparable with an approach that accurately called the final result.
Methodology, fieldwork dates, and a full breakdown of these results can be found here.
For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.
0121 333 6006
Robert Struthers – Senior Research Executive
Michael Turner – Head of Polling & Research Director