Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oscillation ongoing in ORB offering : why are online and telephone pollsters light-years apart on the EU referendum?

As you're probably aware, there was an ORB poll earlier this week suggesting that the EU referendum is pretty tight at this early stage - before rounding, the Yes/"In" side are ahead by just 54.6% to 45.4%.  But it was only last week that we saw an Ipsos-Mori poll putting the Yes campaign almost out of sight, with a 3-1 lead.  There again, it's only been a couple of weeks since we saw a YouGov poll suggesting a very similar state of play to ORB.

Unfortunately, we're just going to have to get used to the same sort of madhouse commentary we saw during the independence referendum, with the media comparing apples with oranges, and breathlessly claiming there have been wild and decisive swings of opinion when in fact nothing much has changed.  Britain has not gone from being evenly divided to being heavily pro-EU - and then back again - all in the space of two rather uneventful weeks.  Instead, the difference in the numbers is caused by the data collection method - Yes are consistently polling much, much more strongly in telephone polls than in online polls.  Terrifyingly, that means we don't have a clue what the true state of play is, other than the fact that No probably don't have an outright lead.

But what is causing the divergence?  It's likely to be one of the following possibilities, or a combination of both -

1) Politically committed people who sign up for volunteer online polling panels are disproportionately anti-EU, and standard weighting techniques are unable to correct for that.

2) People are too embarrassed to tell a telephone interviewer that they want to leave the EU.

Obviously if the first possibility is correct, the big Yes lead in telephone polls is more accurate.  The opposite is true if the second possibility applies.  Take your pick.


  1. opt-out on Ever closer union

    national parliament's red card veto on EU Law

    4 year ban on migrant benefits

    protection from Eurozone financial regulations

    Completing the single market

    repatriation of social and employment law

  2. Replies
    1. This is even nicer. :-D

      David Schneider ‏@davidschneider 12 hours ago

      A reminder of Tory demands for the EU renegotiation.
      (done for @huffpostukcom)

  3. Is the results dependent on Cameron getting the reforms he claims he is demanding?

    1. It will affect it. The weak Cameron's Lisbon style u-turn on treaty change will definintely not help even if it was blindingly obvious to all but the most gullible in the tory party.

      For the eventual result it's clearly a setback for Cameron's pro-Europe Yes campaign but obviously not a lethal blow or anything like that. However, for Cameron's impossible mission of keeping the tory party from tearing itself apart it will have far bigger ramifications as Eurosceptics run about the commons telling undecided/on the fence tory MPs "We told you so!"

  4. I don't really get the impression there's any stigma attached to being anti-EU. You'd have to be an awful wimp to be scared to admit it on the phone.

    1. I completely disagree - I think people are worried about sounding like a UKIP supporter.

  5. I agree with keaton. It's a very long step from thinking being anti-EU means you support UKIP.

    And James can you change the signing in chart. I can't see the food/drink pics easily on my computer.

    1. The simple answer is no I can't. It's totally out of my control. I had comment verification switched off completely, but the powers-that-be switched it back on for everyone.