• The Guardian – July Poll

    On the day in which Brexit Secretary David Davis sits down with his EU adversary Michel Barnier for the second round of Brexit negotiations, his poker hand appears to be somewhat weakened as public support for a possible wildcard exit-without-agreement drops by 7-points, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll.

    The UK leaving the EU regardless of what happens in negotiations enjoyed majority support back in February when 53% supported this hard line position. Now, however, the public have wobbled, with only 46% saying we should consider doing so. The call for a second referendum based on the outcome of the negotiations gains traction as a result, with 32% calling for one compared to 26% back in June.

    The wobble may be explained by increasing pessimism for Brexit’s impact on the nation. Fewer people now think Brexit will result in positive outcomes for the British economy (29% now saying so compared to 38% in February) or for the way of life in Britain today in general (33% vs. 41% in Feb 17) although no movement is observed on its impact on personal finances.

    Those people whose Brexit smiles have been wiped are not yet ready to go full pessimist though, for the most part saying that Brexit will make no difference rather than bring tangible negatives. This is might be a wobble, but not yet a full capitulation.

    There is very little change in headline vote intention numbers since the beginning of July, with only fractional movement in headline numbers. Labour (43%) lead by a point over the Tories (42%), which represents minor within margin of error movement on the last poll at the beginning of the month.

    Conservative 42% (+1)

    Labour 43% (nc)

    Lib Dem 7% (nc)

    Green 2% (-1)

    UKIP 3% (nc)

    SNP 3% (nc)

    Plaid Cymru 1% (+1)

    Other *% (nc)

    ICM Unlimited interviewed 2,046 adults aged 18+ online on 14-16th July 2017. 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.

  • The Guardian – March Poll (1)

    The first ICM/Guardian poll of March shows Labour (28%) in slight recovery mode, up 2-points on a fortnight ago, with the Conservatives holding firm on 44% and bang on their 2017 average lead of 16-points. Whether Labour’s upward move is mere sampling variation or some kind of reaction to Stoke and Copeland is not something that we can rule in or out until further evidence emerges.

    The full breakdown of numbers is as follows:

    Conservative 44%

    Labour 28%

    Lib Dem 8%

    SNP 4%

    Plaid Cymru 1%

    Green 5%

    UKIP 11%

    Other *%

    ICM has reconstructed the look of our tables and debut extra cross-breaks in this poll. In particular, we have constructed an interlocking 2015/EU referendum vote so we can look at movement among Remainers/Leavers in light of their previous party support. We will produce aggregated tables based on bigger samples sizes at a later date, but even with smaller samples in this single poll, we can see some evidence to illustrate the conundrum at the heart of Labour’s problem.

    Labour is remaining a bigger proportional share of its 2015 Remainer voter base (82%) than its 2015 Leave base (75%), but in total, the worry that the Liberal Democrats will intrude on its Remainer support is real: 8% of 2015 Labour Remainers say they will defect to the Liberal Democrats (and remember, Labour Remainers as a group are half as big again as the 2015 Labour Leave grouping). As for Labour’s Leavers, (a quarter of whom currently say they will support another party) the threat appears to be more that of a direct traditional Tory incursion rather than UKIP appealing to its working class (perhaps Northern) core support.

    Either way, there is an important strategic pincer movement on Labour’s vote share, that its headline number in today’s poll somewhat disguises. These are numbers that we plan to track with interest.

    As Philip Hammond’s tops and tails his first budget we also asked how the crisis in funding social care should be solved. There’s not widespread agreement, but more people do believe that additional general taxation should pay for it (39%). One in four think that the current funding solution should remain (23%) and only one in ten (10%) would back those needing it paying for it directly.

    A so-called ‘death tax’ has been bandied about as one possible solution, with an additional layer of inheritance tax applied to inherited property ring-fenced for social care provision. This is rejected by the public, with only 28% offering support for the idea and 41% opposed (particularly Conservative voters who might well be upset with a Conservative Chancellor who introduces such a measure).

    However, if Philip Hammond does need to make difficult and challenging decisions against the will of the Conservative support base he can at least reflect on a decisive advantage he enjoys over his Labour opposites on running the economy. Nearly four times as many people (43%) think that Hammond and Theresa May are better able to manage the economy that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, with only a paltry 12% offering support in their favour.

    This is even lower than the 15% that ICM recorded in July last year, and incredibly, is less than half of Labour’s vote share in this very poll. Only 26% of 2015 Labour voters prefer the Labour duo on economic competence to the Tory top team, with 20% of them opting for Hammond & May.

    There is a crumb a comfort though, the 43% who think the Tories are better able to manage the economy is 10-points lower than the 53% they garnered last July – despite the perceived economic terror then on display in the immediate post-Brexit environment, and the surprisingly upbeat performance of the economy since. This one is a bit of a head-scratcher.

    ICM Unlimited interviewed 2,011 adults 18+ online on 3-5th March 2017. Interviews were conducted across Britain 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.

  • The Guardian – January Poll (2)

    In the wake of Theresa May’s speech outlining the UK’s negotiating principles for Brexit, the Tories remain close to their recent high point in the Guardian/ICM series, standing on 42%, with Labour dropping back down to 26% after operating in a slightly higher range since mid-November. The Liberal Democrats return to rare double figures (10%) but remain in fourth place behind UKIP (13%).

    Full results, compared to the Guardian/ICM poll at the end of the first week in January are:

    Conservative 42% (nc)

    Labour 26% (-2)

    Lib Dem 10% (+1)

    UKIP 13% (+1)

    Green 5% (+1)

    SNP 4% (nc)

    PC 1% (nc)

    Other *% (-1)

    Although framing UK-EU negotiations questions is a difficult task, we asked the public how they would most like the outcome to be evaluated. A majority (53%) opt for leaving the EU no matter what happens in the negotiating process, with a quarter (26%) wanting a second referendum on the terms of the deal. One in ten (12%) prefers for a final decision to be made in Parliament.

    In the event that negotiations fail to yield an acceptable outcome within the permitted time frame, just shy of a majority (49%) believe that we should simply leave without a deal – a third (33%) would want to see a postponement or suspension of our exit (with 62% of Remainers understandably preferring this way forward).

    However, if the terms of the deal are not considered to be in the UK’s interest, the public solidly endorse the proposition of us leaving without a trade deal (63%) rather than accepting a bad one (8%). The public also support Theresa May’s threat to change the UK’s business model in the event of the EU only offering a bad deal. Six in ten (59%) agree that she was right to threaten the EU with only 18% saying she was wrong.

    ICM Unlimited interviewed an online sample of 2052 adults aged 18+ on 20-22nd January 2017. 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.

  • ICM Unlimited and Fawcett Society: Who will win women’s votes?

    With only a week to go until polling day, ICM and the Fawcett Society conducted research exploring attitudes towards the EU campaigns and how they have engaged with voters. The results show some clear differences by gender:

    • With only a week left, women are far less likely to feel informed enough to make a decision about how to vote in the referendum (56% say they’re informed enough vs. 64% of men)
    • However, this isn’t due to a lack of interest and engagement with the debate. When asked whether they’ve found the debates about the EU interesting, 40% of women agree vs. 36% of men
    • Overall, 37% of women think the debate has been too dominated by men (vs. 25% of men)

    ICM interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,021 GB adults aged 18+. Fieldwork was conducted online on 10-13 June 2016.

  • Guardian/ICM EU referendum tracker

    The disparity between phone and online polls on the state of the EU referendum has been a pretty constant feature of the campaign, with exhaustive speculative reasons for it presented by various interested parties. Two weeks’ ago, however, ICM’s mode test for The Guardian suggested that Leave was ahead by 4-points, by 52% to Remain’s 48% across both online and phone data collection methodologies.

    Yet it was a Bank Holiday weekend when that poll was conducted, a feature somewhat notorious in polling folklore for producing wacky samples. Conservative voters are more likely to be away from home, enjoying the British sunshine, so the theory goes, and there have been instances when interesting Bank Holiday findings have indeed evaporated when the next poll came along.

    Not this time. ICM’s latest phone poll for The Guardian confirms the same sort of Leave lead, extended a little actually, to 53% to 47% when Don’t Knows are excluded. The raw number of DKs has tumbled though, now only 6% could not give an answer, compared to 13% at the beginning of the month. The overall figures by phone are Remain 45% (+3), Leave 50% (+5), DK 5% (-7).

    Online numbers also suggest a Leave lead within similar parameters. Our online poll over the weekend shows Remain on 44% (nc), Leave on 49% (+2) and DKs on 7% (-2), also translating into a 53% vs 47% Leave lead.  As we close on referendum day, evidently minds are being made up.

    David Cameron’s woes extend to vote intentions for Westminster. The Conservative share in the phone poll drops by 2-points to 34% although Labour largely fail to capitalise in only picking up 1-point (33%, +1). The Liberal Democrats gain 2-points to 9%, and various other minor party’s pick up a point or two, although UKIP drop back by 1-point.

    The online poll gives the Prime Minister a more comforting margin, with that poll also showing the Tories on 34% (-2), but with Labour only on 30% (-1). UKIP gain 2-points on the online version (19%, +2).

    It should be noted that a number of polling companies have introduced a new weight to reflect educational attainment, suggesting that phone polls produce too many highly educated people within raw samples. In our last two phone polls we have seen a slight tendency for this to be the case, and we have weighted accordingly to see what difference it makes. In neither case did educational attainment make any difference to the headline referendum numbers, but did reduce the weighting efficiency to a barely acceptable 57% on this occasion. As a result, as far as our own phone polls are concerned (to date), there is little value to be had in applying such a weight, and indeed it could even be detrimental to poll reliability.


    Poll summary data:


    Phone Online
    Conservative 34% 34%
    Labour 33% 30%
    LibDem 9% 8%
    SNP 4% 4%
    PC 1% *%
    Green 5% 4%
    UKIP 14% 19%
    Other 1% 1%
    Total 101% 100%
    Remain In 45% (47%) 44% (47%)
    Leave 50% (53%) 49% (53%)
    DK 6% 7% (-)


    ICM Unlimited interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults by telephone on 10-13th June 2016. ICM separately interviewed 2,001 adults aged 18+ online on 10-13th June 2016. In both cases, 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.

  • ICM/ The Scotsman EU Poll in Scotland

    The latest ICM / The Scotsman poll reveals that 54 per cent of Scots believe the UK should remain in Europe, compared with just 32 per cent who think it should leave, with 14 per cent undecided. Excluding those who said they are still undecided, the latest poll means that the Remain side now commands a  63 per cent majority, with 37 per cent backing the Leave campaign.

    ICM interviewed an online sample of 1,000 people in Scotland aged 18+ on 6-10th May 2016. Interviews were conducted across Scotland 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.

    View original articles here and here

  • EU referendum tracker

    This week, ICM’s regular online tracker sees a slight shift towards Leave, with 47% in favour of leaving vs 44% in support of remaining in the EU.

    However, our telephone poll conducted for the Guardian is also showing Leave ahead – for the first time – with 45% in favour of leaving vs 42% in support of remaining.

    For both polls, the overall result stands at 52% Leave vs 48% Remain.

    Online poll – weekly tracker:

    Overall Excluding DKs
    Remain 44% 48%
    Leave 47% 52%
    Don’t know 9%


    Telephone poll:

    Overall Excluding DKs
    Remain 42% 48%
    Leave 45% 52%
    Don’t know 13%


  • EU referendum tracker

    Latest poll – methodological change
    The methodological debate between online and telephone polling on the EU referendum continues apace, but to date ICM Unlimited has, I think, tried to be even handed about both data collection methodologies. Our simultaneous mode test on behalf of The Guardian last week (and last month) not only proved that we have a foot in both camps, but that the discrepancy in findings remains prescient even when all post-fieldwork weighting and adjustment techniques are applied in an identical manner.
    For the record, last weekend’s two ICM/Guardian polls (fieldwork dates: 13th-15th May 2016) resulted in the following outcomes:

      Telephone Online
    Conservative 36% 34%
    Labour 34% 32%
    Liberal Democrat 7% 7%
    UKIP 13% 17%
    Green 4% 4%
    SNP 4% 5%
    Plaid Cymru 1% *%
    Other 1% 1%
    Remain In the EU 47% 43%
    Leave the EU 39% 47%
    Don’t know 14% 10%

    The poll(s) as published were demographically and 2015 past vote weighted, and adjusted in line with ICM’s standard post-2015 General Election mechanism.
    Since the last election’s polling miss, and indeed prior to it, a prolonged and thorough investigation of our methods has taken place. More work has been undertaken on our online processes, given our view that the future of telephone polling is somewhat bleak, for reasons both linked to its own ability to produce representative samples in an age when the public has radically redefined its relationship with the telephone (landline in particular) and because the cost and practicality of telephone polling is problematic for vote intention work.
    A number of new methodological strings to the ICM bow have been tested, all with moderate but consistent impact. However, these methods were developed with the intention of improving the accuracy of Westminster vote intentions rather than European referendum outcomes. In an ideal world, their application would and should improve accuracy for both, but it cannot yet be assumed that such a happy eventuality would, in fact, be the outcome. As a result of unease about their potential power – and unintended negative consequences elsewhere – the decision has been made to only introduce one such innovation at this time.

    Theoretical base
    In their British Election Study paper Mellor & Prosser[1] analysed ‘first’ contacts vs ‘all contacts’ vote intention outcomes in the BES random probability face-to-face survey. They found that after demographic weighting, the first contacted set of respondents (n=714) produced a vote prediction containing the same errors that all 2015 pre-election poll contained – particularly an over-statement of the Labour share, and the UKIP share. Once all contacts had been added in (n=2955) i.e all those people who were less easy to reach, the error all but disappeared.
    Our analysis of our online omnibus surveys in April and May 2015 suggests that the same sort of phenomenon is present in the online context. Too many easy to reach (i.e our online equivalent of first contacts) people appear to support UKIP and Britain leaving the European Union, and their views only begin to be offset later on Friday night and through Saturday once more people are at home or have access to a computer. In other words, making the survey process more accessible to more members of our panel is likely to reduce the chance of politically imbalanced samples.

    The change: identifying the issue
    Vote intention and EU referendum polling undertaken by ICM has exclusively relied upon our own online omnibus, conducted at weekends. We also have a regular midweek online omnibus, but we have not tested political questions on it (until w/c 17th May) in order to help inform our decision. On this basis we are only able to speak about the nature of our own online panel, NewVista. While our expectation is that the discoveries made by us would also likely affect other online panels, we cannot be sure, and we have no intention of criticising our competitors by implication.
    In the launch of our online omnibus, a few hundred email invites are released in order to test the process and the questionnaire (soft launch). Our policy has then been to release a sufficient number of invites to secure the full representative sample of 2,000 members of the adult public.
    This appears to have affected the political profiles/attitudes of online samples we achieved. Interviews tend to build up quickly on each Friday night, probably because certain types of people are more readily available and willing to participate. Indeed, there is a remarkable consistency across our online polls, with big Leave leads being built up in each hour from 4pm to 9pm on a Friday, partially mitigated by big Remain In leads every hour thereafter until the survey closes, ostensibly by Monday morning for data delivery to clients.
    We believe it likely that the weight of interviews generated before 9pm on a Friday has the effect of consolidating a Leave lead as a result of the survey process itself – demographic quota cells fill up and ‘close’ once the target number has been hit. If a specific cell, such as 65+ men, is filled early with people disproportionately likely to support Leave, no additional 65+ men will subsequently be allowed on the survey. As a result, interviews with 65+ men are unlikely to be politically or attitudinally representative of all such 65+ men even though in demographic terms they are identical. But they are not, and their presence possibly introduces a small skew into in favour of Leave (or UKIP, depending on the question looked at).

    The change: process
    As a result of our observation, the way in which ICM releases email invites has changed (as of w/c 23rd May). Only a ‘soft’ launch will take place on a Friday night, and full launch will be staggered across the weekend, making Saturday and Sunday much more of an option for all respondents to complete the survey.
    Our intention is not to prevent certain segments of our panel from participating on the survey. Rather, it is to maximise the opportunity for all panel members to participate by keeping the survey open over more of the weekend.

    The change: weighting
    Weighting has become a default mechanism for polling adjustments, seen as a panacea for all sorts of ills. It is not; it can partially mitigate observed problems but rarely eliminate them entirely – only avoiding the problem in the first place can solve polling riddles.
    However, it is unlikely that process change outlined above will solve the problem other than partially. Respondents more inclined to Brexit may be equally fast to respond to their invite at other times during the weekend, thus still affecting the data but less overtly. As a consequence we are overlaying a new weighting scheme to reflect the profile of response by quickness to participate.
    We will not publish full technical details of this weighting scheme, for fear of conditioning its power. However, we will be applying a “time of response weight” to reflect disparity in response between early responders and late responders. The net effect of this weight, so far, has been to reduce the Leave share by up to 2-points, with a corresponding increase in the Remain share by up to 2-points. It is entirely possible that the strength and direction of this weighting effect will change, if the pattern of response changes on any individual survey.


    [1] Missing Non-Voters and Mis-weighted Samples: Explaining the 2015 Great British Polling Miss

  • Guardian EU referendum poll

    The disparity in findings between online and phone polling on the EU referendum continues apace. In a second mode test, with exactly the same questions and exactly the same weighting adjustments being applied to both sets of data, a differing picture; indeed, a differing referendum outcome emerges.

    Phone Online
    Remain In 47% 43%
    Leave 39% 47%
    DK 14% 10%


    At some point, it’s fair to ask whether there will be a narrowing of the gap as we approach the June 23rd or whether this undoubted mode effect is set in stone? If polling history is to be believed (or indeed the recent British Polling Inquiry into the 2015 debacle, which identified a minor, but helpful herding effect) the former will be the case.

    I’m not so sure. The features that differentiate the modes on the EU question are persistent and consistent, and their effects are tending to work in opposite directions. Polling has often depended on hidden error cancelling itself out, but it seems increasingly unlikely that pollsters can depend on that on this occasion. So you pay your money and you take your chance on what you believe.

    If you want to ask me, which is unlikely, the answer you’d get is “I just don’t know”. I can see reasons why phone polls overstate Remain shares, and reasons why online polls overstate Leave shares. That inevitably leads to a conclusion that reality lies somewhere in the middle, but just hold that thought. More aggressive weighting schemes (privately) employed on these very data sets – schemes intended to correct for observed Westminster vote intention skews the like of which have previously consumed us – are not reducing the gap on the EU referendum but increasing it.

    The narrative that phone polls are more likely to be right ignores some fundamental flaws in phone methods. Labour supporters are continually oversampled by phone, and that may matter more than those same phone polls missing out on supposedly pro-Remain types, who are disproportionately less likely to turn out to vote. Similarly, what’s lurking under online covers could be equally nasty, and we should not ignore that the fact the UKIP voters are again, as they have long since been, higher in online polls than phone (or indeed at recent elections).

    Bemused? You have every right to be.

  • EU referendum tracker

    With six weeks left until polling day, this week marks the fifth consecutive poll in our weekly series to put the Leave side slightly ahead, with a 51% vs 49% split on the referendum question.

    However, it’s worth noting that a large part of this reflects our introduction of turnout weighting at the beginning of April – which suggests that those campaigning to Remain need to focus not only on the debate itself, but also on ensuring that their supporters actually come out to vote on referendum day.

    Including undecideds, the full breakdown of results is:

    Remain         44%
    Leave            46%
    Don’t know  11%