Friday, December 7, 2018

Congratulations to the Independent for the silliest, most misleading headline about polling since...well, since the last one

The Independent is a digital-only newspaper these days, but it still nominally publishes a "front page", and today it bears the following headline: "Just two constituencies back May's deal...and 600 of the 650 want to remain in the EU, poll finds".  That gives the strong impression of a dramatic swing to Remain, because there would have to be a very large gap between the two sides for Leave to only be ahead in 50 seats.  But you perhaps won't be surprised to hear that things are not quite as the Independent are presenting them.  In fact that's the understatement of the millennium - incredibly, the headline is in fact referring to a poll which shows that there would be a very significant risk that a second EU referendum would produce the same outcome as the first, even if the question offered a stark choice between Remain and No Deal.

YouGov asked an enormous sample of more than 20,000 people to choose between different Brexit options, and found that there was a 50/50 split when the choice was between May's deal and Remain, and that there was a razor-thin 52-48 margin in favour of staying in the EU when the choice was between Remain and No Deal.  In other words, almost regardless of the question asked in any referendum, the public is essentially split down the middle and it's anyone's guess what would happen.  The only choice that doesn't produce a virtual dead heat is between May's deal and No Deal, but as either of those options would mean leaving both the EU and the single market, that's no great comfort.

So how on earth did the Independent manage to turn this Leave-friendly poll into a headline that implies a renaissance of Europhilia in the English shires?  Well, YouGov also invited respondents to make a three-way choice between Remain, the May deal, and No Deal.  46% chose Remain, and 54% chose one of the two Brexit options - meaning that the Independent's claim that the vast majority "want to remain in the EU" is the polar opposite of the truth.  But because support for the two Brexit options was split down the middle, that technically means Remain's 46% was enough for a handsome lead on a first-past-the-post basis, and that's what the Independent are getting at.  I've no idea what the relevance of that is supposed to be, given that there isn't a cat in hell's chance that any multi-option referendum would actually be conducted by first-past-the-post.

The Daily Record would have been proud of this one.

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  1. The point, James, is very clear. The headline isn't nonsense and the readoff that two blocks of 27 equals a 54% preference for 'Leave' is also wrong. That point first. As the rest of the You gov survey shows, the actual 'Leave' figure overall is 50 not 54. The reason is simple, as I'm sure you would know, i.e. people 'vote' in different ways given different questions/ranges of choice. THE point of the headline and the devastating map is to show MPs that, when taken constituency by constituency and facing the precise same dilemma which they have to handle, i.e. which of 3 options to go for, the first-past-the-post winner is Remain by a landslide of humungous proportions. MPs live and die by the notorious FPTP system and, gutless wonders as most of them in the main Westminster parties are, they will have a very apprehensive eye on precisely that kind of indicator of how the emerging public mood is when spread across the country, constituency by constituency. I am a long-standing fan of your work - but this time you've completely missed the very political point.

    1. No, I'm sorry, Nigel, it is you who are completely missing the point, and you are quite simply wrong to claim "the headline isn't nonsense". Ironically the rest of your comment displays extremely clearly why you are wrong. As you correctly point out, when forced to make a straight choice between Deal and Remain, the pro-Brexit voters barely budge at all. The combined pro-Brexit vote of 54% on the three-option format only comes down a smidgeon to 50%. Therefore, no matter which way you look at it, it is simply inaccurate for the Independent to claim that 600 of the 650 constituencies "want to remain in the EU".

      The headline is essentially a lie, and at the very least it was intended to seriously mislead. Why you would want to defend that is a complete mystery.

  2. "the readoff that two blocks of 27 equals a 54% preference for 'Leave' is also wrong". Well, yes and no. I see what you're saying. But with respect to that specific question, that is exactly what it means.

  3. Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh (Highland)

    SNP GAIN from LDem.

    first prefs:
    SNP: 33.1% (+7.0)
    CON: 26.0% (+7.6)
    IND (Greene): 15.6% (+1.4)
    GRN: 9.0% (-2.2)
    LDEM: 8.0% (-5.4)
    LAB: 4.4% (-0.7)
    IND (Davis): 3.3% (+3.3)
    UKIP: 0.4% (+0.4)
    LBT: 0.2% (+0.2)

    SNP Elected at stage 8.

    1. Looks like Conservativism is well ahead in that cold dark place although Labour have been mentioned.

    2. Labour well beaten by the Greens and Lib Dems. Lol

  4. I see the Norwegians are not keen at all on having the UK in the EFTA. Hardly a surprise given how untrustworthy the UK is, both with respect to Scotland and the wider international community (e.g. trying to welch on the peace deal backstop).


    "I think you would mess it all up for us, the way you have messed it all up for yourselves."

    Heidi Nordby Lunde, president of Norway's European Movement, is sceptical about calls for the UK to strike a Norway-style deal with the EU.

  5. Ooch.

    "Lunde told the Guardian: “Really, the Norwegian option is not an option. We have been telling you this for one and a half years since the referendum and how this works, so I am surprised that after all these years it is still part of the grown-up debate in the UK. You just expect us to give you an invitation rather than consider whether Norway would want to give you such an invitation. It might be in your interest to use our agreement, but it would not be in our interest.”

    UK is going to struggle to get any trade agreements. I mean who would want to sign one with a country which does nothing but demand it should be the one making all the rules in any agreement, and that it would never sign up to another country making (some of) its laws (jointly), as is required in any trade agreement?

    If the UK does welch on the international peace agreement backstop, you'll not find a country willing to touch a trade deal with it. How could you ever trust a deal with the UK in such circumstances?

    This is where brexit 'Go whistle and fk off back to where you came from smelly furriner' politics is getting Britain.

  6. Joan Bakewell Clever PersonDecember 7, 2018 at 8:43 PM

    I am a rich lady and have never met what you call the working class and will support the EU Liberal elite class and fellow Scottish Nat sis. Chin Chin peasants

    1. I'll bet you look just faaaabulous in drag, Glesga2, dahling - in Christmas panto as an ugly sister, maybe.

    2. Glesga2 AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois is a gracious lady but with a tragic alcohol problem. Heart-rending.

  7. Well the latest UK MORI is also consistent with movement from Labour to SNP, with this accelerating recently.

    A good few straws in the wind of late. Wouldn't be a surprise given how utterly crap labour are on what do to about brexit. I came to Corbyn's defense plenty of times when he was first elected. Gave him a chance etc. I wouldn't vote for him / a party that's not from the country I live in, but I'll condemn unjustified smearing etc whoever's on the receiving end. His heart does seem to be generally in the right place for many issues that are important to me. However, he is just utterly crap isn't he. His lies about 'Leaving the EU must mean leaving the single market too!' tipped the balance really. I value honesty too much.

    Polls suggest Scots may be finally waking up to him too; he doesn't offer a last hope for the UK at all. His elevation to potential PM is just another symptom of its final demise.

    1. I assume, if as the majority of the polling shows, the only way Labour gets into Government is with SNP support, you will withdraw your support for the SNP then? After all if you think him and his party are that bad you cannot support a party that facilitates getting into power him?

    2. If there's not an agreement for an iref at the time of Holyrood's choosing as part of such a pact then 'no deal'; support only on bill by bill basis. This is the SNPs general stance I understand.

      As I said, I support much of what he stands for and even defended him against Tory attacks when he fist became leader (I still do when it comes to the latest Tory smears). He's disappointed me but I'd still rather have him making a mess of things than the Tories, even if his supposed supporters try to persuade me not to prefer that option (presumably because they'd like to see the Tories in power).

      Remember, Scots MPs are no use to Labour. Not with EVEL English devolution. Corbyn must win England to get a 'real' majority. Otherwise he's a lame duck. Doesn't matter if he won every single seat in Scotland, it won't allow him to do anything to e.g. the English NHS, not unless he's won a majority of seats in England.

      Why do you think the Tories just ignore the 13 shoe shiners? Because they're worse than useless for policy making where it matters. It's why none are in cabinet and never will be.

      Corbyn's an English nat; hence the support for Irish reunification and, well, the inability to firmly state he'd not allow the Scots the same choice. The SDLP - Labour's sister party - are the N. Irish SNP and for Corbyn, England is a green and pleasant land. This is why 'Scottish' Labour particularly don't like him; he's a little Englander (rather than an imperial brit).

  8. It's no surprise that this poll should appear in the inthebindependent, which always prints letters from SiU's green-ink tag team (Stephenson, Howell, etc.), but wouldn't print a letter I sent pointing out their nonsense (see ).