The polling evidence suggests we could be at a tipping pointby Peter Kellner / October 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Turning points are easy to spot in retrospect, but can be hard to detect at the time. For this reason, the statement that follows is tentative, not definite; but if it turns out to be true, the implications for Britain’s future are profound.
Here goes: public opinion, especially working-class opinion, may have started to move against Brexit. The trend is not certain; and even if the recent shift is real, it may not last. However, the latest YouGov poll for the Times suggests that, for the first time since last year’s referendum, buyers’ remorse could be setting in.
In the figures I cite below, I have stripped out the “don’t knows,” so we can compare the data with the 52-48 per cent vote last year to leave the EU. Since then, YouGov has conducted 41 polls in which it has asked voters whether “Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union.” The latest poll, conducted last week, finds that 47 per cent think the decision was right, while 53 per cent think it was wrong. This six-point lead for “wrong” is the highest that YouGov has detected. The previous biggest lead was two points.
On its own, this latest finding could be the result of a sampling wobble. The next survey might bounce back to 50-50 or thereabouts. But there are two features of YouGov’s research which suggest that something beyond a sampling wobble may be at work.
First, YouGov’s polls have detected a gradual shift in recent months. We can divide their 41 post-referendum surveys into three groups. YouGov conducted 24 surveys between last year’s referendum and the start of this year’s general election campaign. In 20 of these surveys, more people said the Brexit vote was right than wrong. In three surveys “right” and “wrong” were level-pegging. In only one was “wrong” narrowly ahead. Given sampling fluctuations, there was nothing to suggest any move from the 52-48 per cent referendum result.
“For the first time since last year’s referendum, buyers’ remorse could be setting in”
From the start of the election campaign in April, up to mid-August, YouGov conducted 12 polls. Five showed “right” narrowly ahead, four showed “wrong” just ahead and three had the two views attracting equal support. Taken together, the public view in the spring and summer months was 50-50.