One third undecided and two thirds could change their mind.
To mark the launch of our EU Referendum website and our own “super-charged” online poll, we decided to conduct a preliminary survey on the EU referendum question.
Our study asked 1,000 people in the UK whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave the EU.
The outcome was as follows, weighted for gender and region – including the determined margin of errors:
We thought these results very interesting and worth sharing a few key observations, that may (or may not!) mean anything!
It found the highest number of Undecideds
Of the surveys carried out this year ours found the highest number of respondents claiming to be undecided (32.2%, 33.2% unweighted). Compare this to a survey done by ORB International at around the same time, which found only 4% undecided (ORB). Other surveys have been less extreme, pegging the undecideds at around the 20% mark. So could ours be right, could ⅓ of voters genuinely be undecided at this stage?
Delving a bit deeper the results show more women say they are undecided than men.
Across the age groups, ages 45-64 say they are most “undecided”. But most surprisingly, this is nearly matched by the 18-24s, who are generally thoughts to be the most supportive for remaining in the EU (the second most supportive group in this survey for remain).
One third of people being undecided seems fairly plausible – after all, if your colours aren’t nailed to a particular mast, it’s quite likely that you’ll be open to listening to the various sides of the argument and make your mind up at a later date. Equally we have to consider how people approach these polls – “who’s asking and why?” “…what will I reveal by responding truthfully?”, “Is it just safer to respond non-committally?”, “I’d rather keep my cards close to my chest….” Or “I genuinely need to know more before I make up my mind”. Any of these (and more) can drive up the undecided count. Quite a challenge for market researchers.
Remain appear well ahead
This isn’t particularly surprising given that remain has generally maintained a lead over a long term, with the bookies consistently backing that outcome. However, this was an online survey and online surveys tend to favour leave more than telephone surveys.
There’s interesting data in the regional split. Whilst Northern Irish support for remaining in is well known (BBC), the comparative lack of conviction from Scotland is worth a mention.
The results show Scotland backing leave at 33.6% versus remain at 31.5%, however it’s also the most undecided (34.9%) – and has the highest margin for error. Nonetheless, this contradicts what other recent polls for Scotland have found (65% in favour of remain), and if true would certainly ruffle the feathers of the dominant SNP.
Let’s face it… it’s all over the place
A quick look at our poll tracker reveals how wildly results vary week to week, day by day, and researcher to researcher. Who’s right, who’s wrong – we’ll never know since they are all “snapshots, not predictions”. Nearer the date the stakes will increase significantly, and market researchers will hope their results start to line up, and end up successfully reflecting the actual outcome.
For market researchers engaged in political polling there’s a lot riding on getting it right this time, after the Conservative’s ‘surprise’ victory in the 2015 General Election. However the EU referendum could well be a much more complex beast to model and accurately ‘predict’, not least because of the significant proportion of people saying they are undecided, and the last minute contemplations that will take place in the polling stations.
As Peter Kellner of YouGov explains:
“Voting is a different exercise from answering a poll. It is a choice with consequences, not just an expression of a view.”
While that may be a fair reason for research inaccuracies, for us it’s a raison d’etre. We’ve built our poll for you to express your view – whatever it may be and whenever it may change. Come along for the ride and we’ll see what happens!