‘Leave’ Takes The Lead In Latest ‘Brexit’ Polling
It’s just over a week before the United Kingdom votes on the historic referendum that will decide whether the nation leaves the European Union, and a pair of polls from The Guardian show “Leave” taking a fairly significant lead:
Support for leaving the EU is strengthening, with phone and online surveys reporting a six-point lead, according to a pair of Guardian/ICM polls.
Leave now enjoys a 53%-47% advantage once “don’t knows” are excluded, according to research conducted over the weekend, compared with a 52%-48% split reported by ICM a fortnight ago.
The figures will make grim reading for David Cameron, George Osborne and the Labour party. They follow a fortnight in which immigration became the dominant issue in the referendum campaign, with the publication of official figures showing that net migration had risen to a near-record 333,000 in 2015.
Prof John Curtice of Strathclyde University, who analyses available referendum polling data on his website whatukthinks.org, noted that after the ICM data, the running average “poll of polls” would stand at 52% for leave and 48% for remain, the first time leave has been in such a strong position.
“These results are consistent with the generality of numbers over the last couple of weeks, in which there has been some weakening in the remain position,” he said. “It was already plain that this race was far closer than the prime minister intended and he must now be feeling discomfort at the thought that the outcome really could be in doubt.”
Throughout the long campaign, internet surveys have pointed to a close race. But the remain camp had been able to take heart from more traditional telephone polls, which have tended to show them enjoying a double-digit lead.
That appears to have changed recently. Two weeks ago, ICM reported for the first time that leave had taken the lead in one of its phone polls.
Under the surface, the proportion of voters who remain undecided is dwindling, in possible evidence of the hardening of attitudes towards EU membership.
In ICM’s telephone fieldwork in particular, 13% of respondents were indicating uncertainty about how they would vote a fortnight ago, but that figure has now fallen to 6%. Online, 7% say they don’t know, down from 9% two weeks ago.
There are also signs that Conservative infighting, which has characterised the referendum campaign, is now hurting the party in the Westminster stakes. The Tories are down two points on the month in the long-running Guardian/ICM telephone poll series, at 34%, only one point ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, which gains one on the month to reach 33%.
However, the referendum is not producing a sustained Ukip surge: Nigel Farage’s party sinks by one point from the previous poll, to 14%. The Liberal Democrats climb two to 9% and the Greens also pick up two, reaching 5%. The Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru remain on 4% and 1% respectively. Other minor parties are unchanged at 1%.
Breaking down the population between generations confirms that Eurosceptism sets in with age: among the young, aged 18 to 34, the balance is 56% to 39% for remain, whereas pensioners of 65 and over lean the other way, by 55% to 39%.
Voters in professional “AB” grade occupations are strongly in favour of staying in Europe (57%-38%), whereas skilled manual workers (C2s) are plumping for leave by an emphatic 67% to 29% margin.
Subsequent polling has closed the gap between “Remain” and “Leave” to some extent so that the aforementioned Poll of Polls now shows “Leave” leading by just a narrow 51%, but the momentum in the polling over the past two weeks seems to be clearly in favor of those who would leave the European Union and have the United Kingdom go on its own. It’s worth remembering, of course, the experience from both the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 and the General Election of 2015 in which polling seemed to underestimate support for remaining in the United Kingdom in Scotland and in favor of the Conservative Party prior to those election. If that is indicative of ongoing issues with pollsters in the U.K., then these numbers may not be necessarily be reliable. The fact that Conservatives and the Labour Party alike both seem to be rather nervous about the outcome of next week’s referendum, though, is a fairly good indication that they’ve also gotten inside information that gives them reason to be concerned that the vote could result in the British public sending the message that they want to cut the nation off from Europe in a rather emphatic way.
A victory for the “Leave” forces, of course, could have significant consequences both for the United Kingdom and for the rest of Europe. With respect to the U.K., several analysts have suggested that a victory by the “Leave” forces could give renewed impetus to the independence forces in Scotland, where support for the E.U. is rather high, and that it could even stoke a desire for independence from Northern Ireland and Wales, In that case, we’d be looking at an historic break-up of the U.K. and a reversal of more than 1,000 years of history. Outside the U.K., a ‘Brexit’ victory could provide impetus for similar moves in other parts of Europe eager to free themselves from the bureaucratic control of Brussels and the economic impact of switching to the Euro. There would likely still be some rump form of a united Europe that would remain, consisting primarily of Germany and France, but it would be a shadow of its former self and the economic advantages created by the free movement of people and goods would largely disappear.
In any case, it will all come down to the vote on June 23rd, when the British people will have the opportunity to make history in their hands.
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