Tuesday, May 24, 2016

ICM online poll suggests the EU referendum race is absolutely level

This may help to steady the ship slightly for the Leave campaign, after a couple of recent polls that made some commentators wonder if the referendum was gradually ceasing to be competitive.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 45% (+2)
Leave 45% (-2)

In spite of the tie for the lead, the percentage changes in this poll look perfectly consistent with the modest movement to Remain suggested by the Opinium poll at the weekend.  They're quite hard to interpret, though, because the last ICM poll was unusually good for Leave, so even if the underlying state of play had remained static over the last week, we might have expected some kind of reversion to the mean in the new poll.  Certainly if the wheels were coming off for Leave to quite the extent reported by the ORB series of phone polls, it's likely that ICM would have shown a clear Remain lead today.  Perhaps the ICM online methodology is just proving slow in picking up a pro-Remain trend that will eventually become apparent in all polls, but at least for the time being there are grounds for the Leave camp to feel somewhat reassured.

(UPDATE : It turns out that ICM have made an important methodological change, which entirely explains the small swing to Remain - without it, Leave would still have been 4% ahead.  That's incredible - it suggests that ICM haven't picked up any sort of movement over the last week at all, in spite of the hype over the Remain surge in the Ipsos-Mori and ORB phone polls, and to a lesser extent in the Opinium online poll.)

In the wake of the ORB poll yesterday, there was a lot of talk about the supposedly decisive shifts in opinion among pensioners and Tory voters.  Well, you wouldn't know that from the ICM poll, which gives Leave a more than 2-to-1 lead among over-65s, a slender lead among people who would currently vote Tory, and a healthy 9% lead among people who actually voted Tory in the general election last year.  The reason for the conflicting results is of course the well-established divergence between online and phone polls, which if anything may be growing wider.  The trouble for the Leave campaign, though, is that it's beginning to look like they may need online polls to be completely right and phone polls to be completely wrong - somewhere in the middle probably isn't going to be enough.  And even if online polls are bang-on accurate, Remain would still have at least a 50% chance of winning.

*  *  *



Remain 46.5% (+1.0)
Leave 40.9% (-0.1)


Remain 42.4% (+0.5)
Leave 42.7% (n/c)


Remain 50.5% (+1.5)
Leave 39.0% (-0.2)

(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last three weeks. The online average is based on nine polls - four from ICM, three from YouGov, one from TNS and one from Opinium. The telephone average is based on six polls - two from ORB, one from ICM, one from YouGov, one from Ipsos-Mori and one from ComRes.)


  1. James, how does this poll tally with the bookies odds at the moment? The best odds on Brexit are 4/1 and the best odds on "stay" are 1/4.
    Alex Birnie

    1. This is one poll. The polls in general show Remain ahead.

    2. Commentor : That's a completely meaningless claim. There is no such thing as "polls in general" in a race which has such an entrenched online/phone divide. There were two online polls last week putting Leave ahead.

      The bookies' odds are heavily favouring Remain because a) people assume phone polls are more accurate, b) the phone polls showing Remain ahead often show big leads, and c) there's an assumption that there's likely to be a late swing to the status quo in a referendum of this sort. Those assumptioms may prove to be correct, partly correct, or wrong. We'll just have to wait and see.

  2. So, after 6 consecutive polls showing a substantial lead for Remain, none of which was judged worthy of noting on this blog, we now get a single poll showing a close race and its posted on here within 3 nanoseconds of its publication.

    So amusing to see the nationalist zealots salivating over the remote possibility of the sassenachs voting for brexit, the one and only vestige of hope for another indy referendum.

    Talking of which, still no comment on that Scotland on Sunday poll then ? still burning the midnight oil desperately trying to find some reason why its unreliable ? or, having failed to find anything, is it to be simply ignored like everything else that doesn't support the cause ?

    PS - just to cheer everyone up - bookies still offering 1/6 for Remain (82% chance)

    Sorry lads - better luck next time !

    1. Oh, grow up. In point of fact, there have only been two other polls since I last posted, not six. I didn't post about the ORB poll yesterday for one very simple reason - I spent the whole day walking in Arran. Do you want me to show you the photos? If it had been the indyref, I might have dropped everything and blogged from the middle of Glen Sannox, but this isn't the indyref.

      By the way, I'd be curious to know more about these "six consecutive polls" showing "substantial" leads for Remain. One of the six polls immediately prior to this one had an outright Leave lead, and two of the others had a 4-point lead for Remain. Are you calling 4 point leads "substantial"? That's pushing it a bit, by any standards.

      As for the Scotland on Sunday poll, the datasets STILL haven't been published. If you're unhappy about that, take it up with ICM, not with me, there's a good chap.

    2. ORB 18-22 May: 13% lead for Remain
      Opinium 17-19 May: 4% lead for Remain
      Yougov 16-17 May: 4% lead for Remain
      ComRes 14-17 May: 11 % lead for Remain
      Ipsos Mori 14-16 May: 18% lead for Remain
      ICM (phone) 13-15 May 8% lead for Remain
      (Wikipedia, Mike Smithson blog et al)

      Admittedly, the last one needs to be offset against the parallel online poll showing a 4% lead for Leave

      Also, the first couple may have overlapped with your last posting on May 21 - but in that posting you predictably only mentioned the ICM phone/online schism, and its effect on the poll of polls. (& had another dig at Kellner for daring to predict the indyref correctly !)

      I look forward to the objective analysis of the Scotland on Sunday poll

      PS - I do enjoy this blog & kudos to you for allowing contrary views. Hope you enjoyed Arran - beautiful country

    3. Why are you counting the ICM phone poll as one of the last six, but not counting the ICM online poll showing a Leave lead, when those two polls were conducted and published absolutely simultaneously? I don't know how you have the nerve to complain about convenient omissions from me when you attempt a sleight-of-hand of that sort.

      I posted in detail about the ComRes poll showing a Remain lead of 11%. I'm a bit mystified as to how you missed that - the title of the post was 'Crikey! ComRes confounds us with another cracking EU contradiction'.

      "had another dig at Kellner for daring to predict the indyref correctly"

      He didn't predict the indyref correctly - that's the whole problem. His prediction was light-years out - he was expecting a No win of 60-40 or greater.

      "I look forward to the objective analysis of the Scotland on Sunday poll"

      If you want to instruct me on what to blog about, by all means pay me a salary. I already gave my preliminary thoughts about the SoS poll - ie. that the newspaper's "blow for Sturgeon" spin was self-evidently absurd, given that the percentage changes were so small that they could be potentially explained by sampling variation. I'll see if the datasets - if they ever appear - change my view in any way.

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  4. Glasgow Working Class 2May 24, 2016 at 9:55 PM

    This is good news indeed. My party are a disgrace just like the Nat sis in not campaigning to get out of this corrupt gravy train. It is too big to reform. What is shocking is the Nat sis who want independence and then sell Scotland tae Herman and the Frogs.(not a pop group).

    1. Eat your crayons like a good wee troll

    2. Glasgow Working Class 2May 24, 2016 at 11:27 PM

      Grind yer crains doon and snort them nat si bhoy troll. Dae awa wie yerself an dae the human race a favour. Och aye an up yer kilt ra noo Jimmy

    3. You know, in the unlikely event that you ever attempt to get a job, it might hurt your prospects that when people Google "James McGibbon" they find a bunch of racist gibberings.

    4. Gotta love 23's attitude of late. Reeks of "Everybody is wrong except me". Very Holy Willie's Prayer.

    5. Glasgow Working Class 2May 25, 2016 at 6:59 PM

      Nat si knob. I note wee knickerless fish is going to improve edjikashun innat. Scotland now the booze capital on the yooniverse. Fitba sectarianism now back big style in Leith. Och aye Sconie Boatland fur me.

    6. Yes, dearie. Now, try again, but coherent this time. And get those crayons out of your mouth or you'll have nothing to write to the Daily Mail with.

    7. Glasgow Working Class 2May 25, 2016 at 10:34 PM

      Gled tae hear Scotland once had the best education system in the World. Now collapsing under Nat si ism.

    8. Yes, dearie. Now, try again, but coherent this time. And get those crayons out of your mouth or you'll have nothing to write to the Daily Mail with.