With both party leaders making major speeches on Brexit last week, the latest ICM/Guardian poll aimed to look at what impact, if any, these speeches had outside the Westminster bubble.
The short answer is: not much.
With fieldwork starting after the Theresa May finished her Brexit speech on Friday, these results provide a good initial read public opinion in the immediate aftermath of the two key speeches. By subtracting those who disagree with each statement shown from all those who agree with the statement, we get a net score per statement. We asked four pairs of statements on whether each leader and party’s policy on Brexit is clearer than before, has realistic aims, makes people more likely to vote for that party, and is a policy which the public overall approve of. The results are shown below:
|Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s policy on Brexit is much clearer than it was before||1%|
|Theresa May and the government’s policy on Brexit is much clearer than it was before||-5%|
|The aims of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour in Brexit negotiations seem realistic||-11%|
|The aims of Theresa May and the government in Brexit negotiations seem realistic||0%|
|Overall I approve of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s Brexit policy||-13%|
|Overall I approve of Theresa May and the government’s Brexit policy||-3%|
|Jeremy Corbyn’s policy on Brexit makes me more likely than otherwise to vote Labour||-17%|
|Theresa May’s policy on Brexit makes me more likely than otherwise to vote Conservative||-14%|
This is bleak reading for both Labour and Conservatives. Our regular polling results seems to increasingly show Brexit to be a zero-sum game for the two main parties – politicians have to be seen to be taking a position, but any position chosen is generally met with more public disagreement than agreement.
Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have the one positive net score in this poll, with one percent point more of the British public thinking that Corbyn and Labour’s Brexit policy is clearer than it was before (net score = 1%). This compares favourably with Theresa May and the government’s equivalent net score, which is on -5%.
However, Corbynites shouldn’t see this as a cause for celebration, as whilst his and his party’s position may now be marginally more clear, it’s equally apparent that the public are not enamoured with it. On balance the British public do not think that Corbyn and Labour’s aims in Brexit negotiations are realistic (net score = -11%) or approve of their Brexit policy overall (net score = -13%). Ultimately only 1 in 4 (25%) agree that Corbyn and Labour’s position on Brexit makes them more likely to vote Labour, with more than 2 in 5 (42%) disagreeing – giving a net score of -17%.
May and the government consistently have less negative scores than Corbyn and Labour on all areas apart from Brexit policy clarity (net score = -5%). Whilst the net score on ‘Theresa May’s policy on Brexit makes me more likely than otherwise to vote Conservative’ is marginally higher than the equivalent statement for Corbyn and Labour (net score =-14%), there are much bigger differences between the two leaders’ and parties’ perception in terms of realistic aims and overall approval. Equal proportions of the British pubic agree and disagree that May and the government’s aims in Brexit negotiation seem realistic (net score = 0%), whilst the net score on overall approval of May and the government’s Brexit policy is -3%.
It’s worth maintaining perspective when viewing these results. When we are comparing Brexit perceptions in terms of Labour vs. Conservative, May vs. Corbyn, we are generally comparing degrees of negativity. This is not a story of public enthusiasm and positivity – quite the opposite – so maybe the best the parties can hope for is to limit the public negativity associated with their chosen Brexit approach.
In terms of voting intentions, there’s very little change. Labour and Conservatives trade one percent of the public’s vote intention between them, meaning the Conservatives regain a slim lead on 43% compared to Labour’s 42%. But these two proportions are still very much within the margin of error on this poll, so if there was an election tomorrow, we’d still consider it too close to call. Results for the main Westminster parties are shown below, with comparison to our previous poll a fortnight ago.
Conservatives: 43% (+1%)
Labour: 42% (-1%)
LibDems: 7% (nc)
SNP: 3% (nc)
ICM Unlimited interviewed a representative online sample of 2,030 adults aged 18+, between 2nd – 4th March 2018. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.