It's been ages since I last posted anything about EU referendum polling, which is probably just as well, because I've been exasperated at the acres of drivel that have been written on the subject over the last couple of weeks. It's true that there is some evidence (albeit not quite conclusive) that there was a swing back to Remain in mid-April, but if it did happen, it was nowhere near as dramatic as some of the commentary would have had you believe. I saw one headline about the most recent Ipsos-Mori poll, which read "Remain now leads by TEN points", as if that's a figure that should have made our jaws drop to the floor. But I just thought : what do you expect? It's a telephone poll. Yes, ten points represents a slight increase in the Remain lead, but it's not quite such a devastating blow for the Leave campaign when you recall that they were eighteen points behind with Ipsos-Mori as recently as February.
On the other extreme, we also had commentary that placed far too much emphasis on polls that didn't even ask for referendum voting intention, and yet purportedly showed that Obama's intervention on behalf of Remain had backfired. You really can't read much into a poll showing that the majority of people think that what Obama said is irrelevant, because for all we know the substantial minority who take the opposite view could easily be the crucial swing voters who will decide this referendum.
As it turns out, the first partly-post-Obama poll out today shows a small improvement for Leave. But the change is well within the margin of error, and unfortunately the poll is the latest in the ORB telephone series, which so far seems to have been fairly detached from the trend shown by all other polling. The most that can be said is that today's findings somewhat decrease the chances that we'll eventually conclude that Obama's words had the intended effect. But the jury is still very much out on that.
Last but not least, I absolutely despair at the way in which changes in John Curtice's Poll of Polls have been breathlessly reported by some journalists without the appropriate health warnings about the ever-shifting balance between telephone and online polls in his sample. On a meaningful pound-for-pound comparison, the current 54% to 46% lead for Remain in a sample almost entirely comprised of telephone polls is actually pretty similar to the previous 50-50 split in a sample that was almost entirely comprised of online polls. Whatever criticisms might be made of the method I use for the Poll of Polls on this blog, at least it avoids that kind of totally illusory effect.
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SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
50/50 ONLINE/TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 44.6% (-0.6)
Leave 39.7% (-1.7)
ONLINE AVERAGE :
Remain 39.6% (-2.3)
Leave 39.1% (-3.3)
TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 49.5% (+1.0)
Leave 40.3% (n/c)
(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 seven polls - three from YouGov, two from ICM and two from TNS. The telephone average is based on six polls - two from ComRes, two from ORB, one from ICM and one from Ipsos-Mori.)