Unfortunately there's no ICM phone poll this week to help us work out whether the Leave lead last week was a complete fluke - so it may be a ComRes or Ipsos-Mori phone poll that eventually solves the mystery. But as usual ICM do have an online poll, and it shows further movement towards Leave.
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
Remain 43% (-1)
Leave 48% (+1)
On the face of it the changes are not statistically significant. But last week's online poll showed a swing towards Leave that was much more modest than the one reported by the simultaneous phone poll, and if today's numbers had shown a reversion to the mean we might have concluded that nothing had really changed at all, at least as far as online polling is concerned. So the significance of today's poll is that it instead reports a second consecutive swing to Leave, which can probably be taken as being more meaningful, especially as the 5% Leave lead is outside ICM's normal range - they've never previously shown Leave ahead by quite this much. That seems even more important when you bear in mind that ICM recently made a Remain-friendly methodological adjustment to take account of the fact that Leave supporters are quicker to respond to survey invitations. Without that tweak, it's possible that Leave would now be reported as being closer to 10 points ahead.
To summarise what the three online firms that have conducted fieldwork recently are showing -
* All three suggest a swing to Leave.
* ICM have Leave doing better than ever before.
* YouGov have Leave ahead by a bigger amount than since February, although the numbers wouldn't have looked out of the ordinary prior to that.
* Opinium (on their old methodology) have a Leave lead that is within the normal range, but at the upper end of it.
Taking all of that together with the ICM and ORB phone polls from last week, the evidence for a recent Leave breakthrough is reasonably convincing, but still not 100% conclusive.
An unnamed Leave source was quoted the other day as saying he wouldn't be confident of victory until his side were ahead by around 7 points, because none of the polls take into account Gibraltar and ex-pat Britons (they have a right to vote if they've been away for less than 15 years), and most of the polls (bizarrely) still don't take into account Northern Ireland. Unless the result is a Wales 1997-style cliffhanger, it's probably safe to say that Gibraltar isn't going to make that much difference, because although it's likely to vote Remain by a massive margin, it has a population smaller than Dumfries.
Northern Ireland is more significant because it has 3% of the UK's population, but it's still unlikely to reduce the Leave lead (or increase the Remain lead) by more than around 1%. It's ironic that we do expect NI to be such a strong region for Remain, because it's the one part of the UK where the head of government (Arlene Foster of the DUP) backs a Leave vote. But the nationalist community will be overwhelmingly for Remain and the unionist community will be split - thus leading to a decent overall Remain advantage.
The ex-pat Brits are the real wild card. They're impossible to poll, although it does seem reasonable to assume that many of them will be highly motivated to vote Remain, given that they arguably have more at stake than their compatriots at home.
Someone asked on an earlier thread whether the Scottish subsamples of Britain-wide polls still show a handsome Remain lead. The answer is yes - the ICM subsample puts Remain ahead by 56% to 34%. That's entirely typical of other subsamples and of the occasional full-scale Scottish polls we've seen. We know this year of all years that nothing can be taken for granted (I'm looking at you, Kevin Williamson) but it has to be said the Scottish result does look reasonably predictable at the moment. It's the UK part of the equation that's in the balance, and a few cynical souls might suggest that offers us some opportunities for tactical voting. But of course I would never recommend such a thing, not so much because tactical voting isn't viable (in this particular case it probably is) but because the stakes are too high for all of us.
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Our old friend "TSE" had a monumentally silly piece on Stormfront Lite earlier today, claiming that pro-European MPs were planning to "ignore the result of the referendum" (and moreover "set a precedent" for the SNP to ignore the result of a referendum!) because they want to keep Britain in the European single market in the event of Brexit. I'm not sure TSE actually understands the referendum question we're about to vote on (or in many cases have already voted on by post) - it's solely about membership of the European Union, and doesn't even mention the single market. It's perfectly possible to be part of the single market without being an EU member, and several countries are in exactly that position. All that these MPs are doing (as I predicted they would in a blogpost on Saturday) is interpreting the referendum question literally - the notion that they're "reminding the electorate that referendums are advisory and not binding on parliament" is completely ludicrous. If the British people vote to leave the European Union, the UK will leave the European Union, and I doubt if there's a single MP from any party who disputes that.
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UPDATE (11pm) : We have a new phone poll from ORB, but if anything it's just muddied the waters further. The headline numbers show the Remain lead effectively being wiped out...
Remain 48% (-3)
Leave 47% (+1)
...but those are the turnout-filtered numbers. The unfiltered numbers actually show Remain bouncing back to a healthy 12-point lead (although admittedly even that is still well down on the 20-point gap ORB reported two weeks ago).
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UPDATE II : And confusingly, yet another new YouGov poll tonight contradicts ICM by giving Remain their best result since three weeks ago -
Remain 43% (+2)
Leave 42% (-3)
So which is the misleading poll - this one, or the previous YouGov poll putting Leave 4 points ahead? It could be that sampling variation is fooling us here, and that the truth is somewhere in the middle (ie. a Leave lead of one or two points). Given what ICM are showing, it's hard to take the YouGov trend at face value and conclude that there has been genuine movement back to Remain - but you never know, of course.
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SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
50/50 ONLINE/TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 44.3% (+0.4)
Leave 43.9% (+0.7)
ONLINE AVERAGE :
Remain 42.3% (+0.2)
Leave 43.7% (+0.4)
TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 46.3% (+0.6)
Leave 44.0% (+1.0)
(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last two weeks. The online average is based on nine polls - four from YouGov, two from ICM, one from TNS, one from Opinium and one from BMG. The telephone average is based on four polls - two from ORB, one from ICM and one from Survation.)