Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
ComRes (phone) :
Remain 48% (+2)
Leave 42% (-3)
YouGov (online) :
Remain 51% (+2)
Leave 49% (-2)
The ComRes result is, I'm sure, going to be portrayed in some quarters as a hammerblow for Leave, but actually, a quick perusal of past ComRes results reveals this to be the second-best poll of the series for Leave - the Remain lead has only slipped below 7% on one previous occasion, and that was in the most recent poll. The other big saving grace for the Leave campaign is that the ComRes fieldwork took place over several days, and actually started as long ago as Friday - so these numbers aren't any more up to date than any of the other polls we've seen today or yesterday. They're an important piece of evidence, but they don't supersede what has gone before. Basically this returns us to the long-running conundrum of this campaign - do you trust phone polls more than online polls, or is the truth somewhere in between?
* If online polls are calling this correctly, we're heading for a cliffhanger.
* If phone polls are right, the odds favour Remain - although there have been fewer phone polls to go on, and the three most recent ones have given conflicting estimates of the size of the Remain lead (arguably the ORB poll managed to contradict itself).
* If the true position is at a rough midway point between online and phone polls (which seems to be John Curtice's view), you'd very slightly favour Remain, but you certainly wouldn't be betting your house on it - particularly given that it's so hard to make predictions about how differential turnout will play out in an unprecedented one-off referendum.
My namesake James in the comments section below has pointed out (and I'm taking his word for it, because the YouGov website has crashed!) that the percentage changes in the YouGov poll are misleading, because there's been a methodological change - a 'squeeze' has been added to take account of undecided leaners. On a like-for-like comparison with the previous poll and excluding the squeeze, the figures are apparently Remain 45% (+3), Leave 45% (+1). A dead heat is within YouGov's recent normal range, so as was the case with Opinium and TNS (and I would argue Survey Monkey as well), there's absolutely no hard evidence of a very recent swing to Remain in this poll.
Another commenter raised a point that we've heard a lot about in recent days - that by some mysterious process, the City somehow already "know" that Remain will win, and will receive between 52% and 54% of the vote. This was my reply, and I think it bears repeating -
"Short of buying into the conspiracy theories and accepting that elections in Britain are rigged, that just sounds like gibberish to me (either that or professional arrogance). Even if you were looking at extensive private polling evidence showing that the Remain vote was around 52-54% with Don't Knows excluded, that does not constitute hard evidence that Remain is definitely going to win, because it's close enough for Leave to sneak it if the turnout-modelling is wrong. (And given the uniqueness of the contest, why would anyone have 100% confidence that the turnout modelling is well-founded?)"
The issue of turnout modelling is particularly relevant to the ComRes poll, because the ComRes adjustment for turnout has tended to be more favourable for Remain than what other pollsters have been doing. The basic figures among the whole sample tonight are Remain 46.8%, Leave 42.1%.
ComRes have also rather boldly reassigned some Don't Knows to Remain on the basis of how they answered a supplementary question about the economy. That could be a dangerous thing to do, given that the economy and immigration have been vying for importance throughout this campaign. Time will tell whether it was a stroke of genius or a foolish 'reimagining' of the raw results of a poll. Without that highly unusual adjustment, the headline Remain lead would have been a touch lower.