• EU referendum tracker

    Prior to David Cameron securing a package of reforms on the UK’s relationship with the EU, the weekly ICM EU referendum tracker edged back into a 4-point lead for Remain In – now standing on 42%. Leave drop back to 39% with DKs hitting a level (19%) not seen since November. This equates to a 52% v 48% referendum victory for Remain In.

    This might represent a holding pattern, with the news dominated by Cameron’s negotiating position. With the reforms (at time of writing but not before the end of fieldwork) now in, what happens next could be key, and ICM will, of course, have some numbers soon enough.

  • EU referendum tracker

    Four consecutive polls, each revealing a lower Remain In number than the last, may constitute a trend.

    Since the 21st December the score for the pro-EU side has dipped marginally from 45% to 44%, 42% and now 41%. This is the lowest score ICM has produced for Bremain since the inception of the weekly tracker (although we had them on 37% back in December 2013 using a different question).

    The Leave camp does benefit as a result, rising from 38% to 41% over the same period. Thus the tracker stands at neck and neck with 41% apiece, generating a 50:50 tie once DKs are stripped out.

  • EU referendum tracker

    We’ll start with an apology for late delivery of this week’s referendum tracker. In a week when the BPC Polling Inquiry produced preliminary findings – with its much reported acknowledgement of ‘unrepresentative samples’ being identified as suspect in chief for the 2015 polling fail – we have much to ponder.

    Not least the least of which is the extent to which the polling industry might not have much time to get our house in order, with two cabinet ministers suggesting that June could be the big day. For my part, there is considerable unease about the variability in EU referendum polling, particularly the discrepancy between the online polling (which, of course, is the basis of our tracker) showing neck-and-neck positions, and the phone polling, heavily in favour of Bremain. It feels like we’ve been here before…

    The discrepancy continues apace, with Yougov and Survation showing leads for Brexit this week. We do not, but at 42% for Remain In and 40% for Leave (equating to 51% vs 49%) ICM is right on the cusp of fellow online pollsters’ work.

    The discrepancy between online and phone polling, as David Cowling (political research guru (ex-) of the BBC) recently noted, is somewhat explained by a large disagreement on how the oldest members of society (65+) would vote. In our poll, we find (again) that there is a substantive Leave lead (24-points) but in pre-Christmas phone polls by MORI and ComRes the lead for Leave among the 65+ age group was a mere -1.

    It’s likely that some kind of mode effect is at play here, and we’ll try and tease out what it might be over the coming months, but we should note that the Polling Inquiry suggested that online polls failed to generate enough interviews among “older, older” folk, those above 75 say, rather than those merely above 65 years. We are setting new age quotas for these age groups as a result on our online polls, and we’ll see what we learn in the coming weeks.

  • EU referendum tracker

    Although the race appeared to narrow in mid-December, with a number of polls – including our own – putting the referendum question at 50-50, ICM Unlimited’s weekly tracker shows that the picture appears to have stabilised in early 2016. In the first data since the new year, Remain In picks up again to 44%, while Leave drops back to its previous level at 38%. Excluding the undecideds, this leaves the Remain In side comfortably ahead at 54% vs 46%.

  • January Sales: are they still popular?

    Early January has traditionally been heralded as the time of till ringing, card tapping, bargain brimming, sales. However, with the ever increasing pre-Christmas sales and focus on Black Friday, could January no longer be the shopping period it once was?  ICM’s recent poll for Retail Week suggests that whilst the retail industry may be transforming, consumers appetites for a post-Christmas bargains are not.

    Last year ICM’s poll showed a third (33%) of consumers believe that the best deals are available in January, and yet despite an increase in pre-Christmas sales and a greater emphasis on Back Friday, that figure has remained unaltered this year (32%), suggesting that the appetite for January sales is not diminishing!  And it is younger consumers that believe it is January when the best bargains are to be grabbed, with 45% of 18-34 year olds compared to 22% of those ages over 55.

    For many of us, Christmas day is about family, food and charades, but for 1 in 10 of those who intend to shop in the sales, it’s about beating the crowds before Christmas day is through! And by 9am Boxing Day, 1 in 6 consumers will have already started their January shopping.  And, for many festive shoppers, a bargain can be sort without bracing the cold and leaving that selection box of chocs, with 47% starting their January sales shopping online.

    But how much did our eager January bargain hunters intend to spend? ICM found that 1 in 6 consumers planned to spend more this January than they did last year, a figure that has been consistently rising since 2013. Age is a key determinant for increased spending with those under 35 much more likely to say they will spend more of their cash.

    So despite increasing opportunities for consumers to pick up a bargain pre-Christmas or on Black Friday, consumers continue to seek the retail reductions in January with as much gusto as ever!

  • The European view of the British EU referendum

    With the question of Brexit moving closer to the top of the political agenda in Britain, ICM Unlimited tested views across the continent on appetite for a British departure.

    Suffice to say, there wasn’t much, with Britain seemingly still wanted by majorities in nearly every country in which we interviewed a representative sample of the population. Big majorities were in favour of our Remaining In in all of Portugal, Spain and Italy, with (smaller) majorities also found in the big player nations of Germany and France.

    Only in Norway, which is not a member of the EU, would more people prefer to see a British exit.

    We also looked at how people might vote if their own country held a referendum on EU membership, with the public in all of them opting for the status quo. Indeed, only in Sweden is narrowness between the two options observed – everywhere else a fairly safe gap in support of membership is apparent.

    For a write up of the poll, and analysis of EU referendum polling, see The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/01/eu-referendum-polling-results-depend-methods

    ICM interviewed a representative sample of at least 1000 adults online in each of nine European countries on 15 and 30 November 2015. Interviews in each country have been weighted to the profile of adults living within it. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

  • Guardian Poll – December 2015

    The final Guardian/ICM poll of 2015 is pretty much as you were, with the Conservatives remaining static on 39% (but still a point ahead of their General Election showing) and Labour up one to now stand on 34% – equally their post-election high.

    Top line numbers are:

    Conservative 39%
    Labour 34%
    Liberal Democrats 7%
    UKIP 10%
    Green 3%
    SNP 4%
    Plaid Cymru 1%
    Other 2%

    That Labour stand above their election share is possibly less the result of a commanding leadership performance that has invigorated the Labour masses, but more likely the continued over-statement of Labour in phone polls for sampling reasons. It should be noted that nearly all online polling has Labour hovering around the 30% floor, and although this is only a relatively small variation between methods, it is sufficient to exercise the mind as pollsters (especially us here at ICM) await the findings of the BPC Inquiry in January.

    For our part, it is clear that phone polls steadfastly continue to collect too many Labour voters in the raw sample, and the challenge for phone polling is to find a way to overcome the systematic reasons for doing so. The methodological tweaks that we have introduced since the election in part help mitigate this phenomenon by proxy, but have not overcome the core challenge. In our view, attempting to fully solve sampling bias via post-survey adjustment methods is a step too far and lures the unsuspecting pollster into (further) blase confidence.

    We will have more to say on our methods in the coming months.

  • EU Referendum Tracker

    Amid reports that David Cameron has returned from his European tour empty handed on the subject of a four-year ban on foreign workers claiming in-work tax credits in Britain, the apparent reaction from the public is interesting and suggestive of an imminent signature moment of ‘cross-over’.

    In this week’s ICM Unlimited weekly tracker (released by Vote Leave), Remain In dips 1 point to 42% (equal lowest score since the weekly tracker began back in May 2015) while Leave picks up 2 points to stand at a weekly tracker high point of 41%, shading the previous 40% high witnessed back in September.

    Caution should always be exercised when polling numbers move, especially in light of semi-obscure political events (which ordinarily by-pass the sight of most members of the public, even if they were front page headlines), but it is hard not to reconcile a move in favour of Brexit with Cameron’s so-called reported “climb-down”.

    But while Remain In do still scrape out a fractional lead (41.7% vs 41.4%), once Don’t Knows are excluded the outcome rests on a balanced 50:50 outcome.

    Some additional questions were asked on behalf of Vote Leave this week, largely reinforcing accepted orthodoxies. Enthusiasm for the referendum is very much the preserve of Brexiteers with a whopping 57% of those highly enthusiastic of the forthcoming referendum campaign currently siding with Leaving the EU. The equivalent share for Remain In is only 35%. The opposite also applies in spades: only 22% of those with “no enthusiasm” opt for Brexit, while 57% of them would currently vote for Remain In.

    This finding may have sizable implications for turnout, and by corollary for the referendum outcome. If those on the Leave side are far more concerted in both their engagement with the subject and likelihood to turnout, then there is likely to be a tangible electoral dividend. That is part recognised in ICM’s (as yet, unpublished) new turnout modelling, which, when separately applied to this question, reversed the 42% vs 41% in favour of Remaining In to a sizable lead for Brexit (41% vs 45%, 14% DK, or 48% vs 52% excluding DKs). This will remain an ‘unofficial’ ICM measure until further notice.

    Separately, Vote Leave re-tested the referendum outcome on the premise that the Prime Minister does not succeed in negotiating changes in the free movement of people across EU member states. Under such a scenario, Leave (45%) surges past Remain In (40%, with 15% saying DK) to an overall 52% vs 48% victory for Brexit. With other polls this week also suggesting that the Prime Minister needs to secure wins for the UK at the negotiating table in order to preserve EU membership status, the pressure is gradually ratcheting up.

    If speedier access to the data is needed please email martin.boon@icmunlimited.com.

  • EU referendum tracker

    A period of relative stagnation in the EU tracker continues, with the headline findings the same as last week: Remain In 43%, Leave 39% with 17% unable to provide a view. However, when the DKs are stripped out the Leave campaigns inch forward to 48% while Remain In drop marginally to 52% on the basis of rounding considerations.

    This week has seen You Gov produce their findings on the polling miss of 2015, with methodological tweaks likely to manifest themselves in and around differential propensity to vote modelling and political interest weighting. On this, our own testing work has just a little to say, at least in context of the referendum tracker question.

    We have been (privately, to date) testing a new form of turnout modelling for our own Vote Intention work, but which does carry through (in currently unpublished data) to this EU tracker dataset should we desire it to do so – on the probably contentious supposition that turnout propensities in the European Referendum will be consistent with those (assumed, and always with limitations) to have occurred at the General Election.

    The double caveat just stated probably serves as a major health warning and I’ll save you from further theoretical or methodological headaches, but the outcome was interesting – the alternative turnout modelling made reduced the Remain In lead to 44% vs 42% (DK:15%) or to 51% vs 49% depending on your preference.

    It’s easy to analyse why: older people are more likely to vote, more likely to be Conservative voters and thus more likely to be to Leavers. Being upweighted in a new turnout scheme thus inevitably increases the Leave share in a poll.

    ICM will introduce a turnout question for the EU referendum tracker in the near future, and the new turnout weighting scheme may well follow, although it very much remains a work in progress.

  • EU referendum tracker

    In a week in which the travails of the Labour Party has dominated the news agenda, relative silence on the EU referendum has resulted in a negligible but upward move for the Leave campaigns, up one to 39%. Remain In drops 2-points (43%), leaving it ahead by a fairly insubstantial margin once Don’t Knows are stripped out (53% vs 47%).

    Hat tip to the team at the Polling Observatory for a fascinating piece on EU referendum house effects in the Washington Post which demonstrated how much variation exists between different polling companies on this critical next evaluation of polling methods.

    Their work is based on ‘poll-of-polls’ analysis, with the table below showing how far each company’s data is above or below the average. Perhaps the most notable starting point is the extent of variation with, for example, YouGov under-shooting the Remain In average by 8-points but Ipsos-Mori over-shooting it by 9-points. It’s difficult to reconcile such divergence without getting into a tiresome methodological debate along the online vs telephone cleavage, so we won’t, but evidently both can’t be right.

    Sitting here in the seat most closely associated with the polling company average, you can be assured, gives us little satisfaction. As the Polling Observatory team note with abandon, ‘poll-of-polls’ are no great guide to accuracy, and let’s remember that ICM has historically found great accuracy whilst situated at an outlier position. On those occasions though, we knew why we were the outlier and we wanted to be the outlier.

    Here, not so much. We cannot say that we know why our weekly online tracker sits close to the cross-company mean, nor are we sure of where we’d like to ideally find ICM – in contrast to current General Election vote intention polls where we’re very clear in our own minds what we think current polling numbers should be. Of course, the benefit of having been around for five elections’ worth of polling experience helps on that, but like everyone else, we’re virgins at EU referendum predictions.

    My own doubts about polling veracity were on full display before the Scottish Independence referendum, and some of the causes of them are being directly transferred across from it to the EU referendum. So while there is a danger here of becoming a polling Cassandra, I’ll still say that when we link the poor performance of online polls before the AV referendum and to a lesser extent in Scotland, there is a brew being mixed here that we’ve disliked the taste of before.

    But ICM will still conduct them without compunction. Indeed, we should probably expect the EU referendum to become a fertile testing ground for new polling techniques under 2020 GE consideration, and of course, we have not even started asking about things like turnout in the referendum yet. There is much yet to think about, and do.