Over the past week social media has been full of talk about the “trend toward Remain”. But if we look below the surface what has really changed?
Well, granted, the two most recent polls by ORB and Ipsos-MORI suggest that the Remain camp could well be heading for a landslide. ORB put Remain 15 points ahead on 55 per cent and Ipsos-MORI put Remain 18 points ahead on 55 per cent, its strongest lead in the Ipsos-MORI tracker since February (and its highest level of support since January). The subsequent upturn in the value of sterling underlined how these two polls have bolstered confidence in Remain’s position.
But has there really been a fundamental change in the race? A closer reading of the evidence would suggest not.
As John Curtice notes here, across all of the polls that were published last week only two (by ORB and Ipsos-MORI) suggested that Remain had gained more than a one-point increase.
Compared to one month earlier all of the other polls presented a rather mixed picture of Remain’s position – the TNS online poll had Remain down 5 points, the ICM online poll had them down 2 points, the ICM phone poll had them up 1 point, the ComRes phone poll had them down 1 point, and the YouGov online poll had them up 1 point. So, for each of the two polls suggesting an increase in support for Remain there was at least one suggesting that Remain had lost ground or was treading water. In fact, when you take the average across all of these polls Remain had actually not moved at all.
Since then we have had an online poll from Opinium which suggests Remain is up by 2 points. But we have also been handed new online and telephone poll experiments from YouGov, both of which put Leave ahead, respectively, by two and three points. This is more evidence that pushes back against the narrative that Remain is stomping ahead.
Clearly, therefore, Remain campaigners and their supporters should be applauded for having successfully framed the events of last week as giving them momentum in the polls because the reality appears to be quite different. Yet having said all that, it is also true that one can find some evidence below the surface to support the claim that Remain is still in the stronger position, even if there is no clear trend in its direction.
First, take a look at the chart below. This shows you the average share of the vote for Remain across a variety of different forecasts and which, crucially, do not all rely on opinion polls. The forecast data has been collected by Stephen Fisher and Rosalind Shorrocks at Elections Etc. The forecasts draw variously on political experts (including the Red Box survey), the betting markets and other prediction markets. Combined, these forecasts give Remain an average 54 per cent share of the vote. This is right in line with the Poll of Polls, which puts Remain on 54 per cent, its highest point since February.