EU referendum: Leave campaign closes gap to narrowest margin yet as latest poll shows Brexit vote will go down to the wire
By Sir Lynton Crosby
This week’s ORB poll sends mixed signals about voters’ thinking on the EU referendum.
While topline figures suggest the Remain campaign has improved its vote share advantage over the Leave campaign among the population as a whole since last week, among those definite to vote the opposite is true – with the Leave campaign narrowing the gap among those certain to vote.
Whether this week’s change primarily is due to increased sample volatility in last week’s ORB poll because of the bank holiday weekend, or whether it represents a true change in the public’s attitudes, only time will tell.
But it demonstrates that when considering polls it is always important to focus on the broad trends and what these show, rather than the latest ‘interesting’ change.
Two weeks is a long time in politics, and anything can happen before polling day, but the clear trend over the course of ORB’s polls for the Telegraph shows that Leave campaign has a turnout advantage over the Remain campaign.
If this persists to June 23, the referendum could come down to the wire.
This trend is borne out by this week’s ORB poll for the Telegraph which reveals the divergence between the electorate as a whole and those who say they are definite to vote.
It is reinforced by the Telegraph’s poll of its own readers where 94% say they are definitely going to vote and 69% say they are voting out.
Vote share among the entire eligible electorate is effectively stable and the small movements that have taken place are well within the margin of error: the Remain campaign has gained one point since last week (to 52%) while Leave has fallen by two points (to 40%).
But as has been consistent over the course of these ORB polls, looking at just those definite to vote shows a more favourable picture for the Leave campaign. Just under half (47%) of definite voters now say they will be voting to leave on polling day, an increase of one point from the previous ORB poll.
Meanwhile those intending to vote Remain has fallen by three points (to 48%). But as with all respondents, the movements in vote share among definite voters are relatively small and within the margin of error of this poll. While it may indicate a tightening of the race, it is important to consider the trend in the broader context.
This includes considering turnout. Overall, almost three in five respondents (59%) say they are certain to vote on referendum day. But broken down by voting intention, only just over half (54%) of Remain voters say they are definite to vote compared to more than two in three (69%) Leave voters who say the same.
So considering the trend across all ORB polls, we can be certain of two broad strategic truths. Firstly, a majority of the British population support Britain remaining in the EU – in the last seven ORB polls, Remain has secured over 50% support among the electorate as a whole. But equally, Leave voters are more motivated to show up and vote.
And this means, as I have indicated in analysis of previous ORB polls, whether or not Leave can maintain this differential turnout advantage until June 23rd will be critical in deciding whether or not Britain remains a member of the EU. If Leave supporters continue to show the enthusiasm and fervor that is lending them a double-digit turnout advantage now, then the result on polling day could be much closer than much of the British population expects.
The broad trend in public expectations shows that approximately three-fifths of the British public expect Britain to remain a member of the EU, while between a fifth and quarter expect Britain to leave. This hold true in the latest ORB poll where 59% of the electorate believe that Remain will win the day while 22% now think the same of Leave.
This sizeable expectations gap may work to Leave’s advantage by instilling a sense of urgency in its supporters while generating complacency in those intending to vote Remain.
The third strategic truth this series of ORB polls has highlighted is the belief among voters that Britain’s economy will benefit from remaining in the EU, while immigration will be improved by Brexit.
On which outcome “will create a stronger economy for the UK,” Remain leads with 45% to Leave’s 37%, a net positive position of 8 points and broadly stable since last week. And when it comes to which “will create more jobs,” Remain holds its 8-point net advantage with 42% to Leave’s 34%.
When it comes to which outcome “will improve the UK’s immigration system,” Leave leads comfortably by 54% to Remain’s 21%, having increased its net positive position by 4 points from last week.
This week’s poll does show a shift in which outcome voters believe “will expose the UK to greater risk of terrorism”. This ORB poll shows that voters now consider remaining in the EU (34%) poses a greater risk to Britain’s security than Brexit would (31%). This is a 5-point reversal in Remain’s net position from -2 last week to +3 today. At this stage it is impossible to tell whether this is a substantive shift in opinion, a short-term response to the public’s belief that leaving the EU gives us greater control, or simply background noise that will fade over the next two weeks.
One area where the Remain campaign has remained consistently ahead in recent polls is on being ‘credible and trustworthy’. This week’s ORB poll shows a 5 point increase in Remain’s net lead when it comes to which side “seems credible and trustworthy” (38% to Leave’s 30).
As you read this article many people will have already voted by post with more doing so in the next few days. So the die is beginning to be cast. It is not just about turnout on polling day but it is about the capacity of either campaign to connect with postal voters now and then convert the rest of the population on June 23.
Whoever has the better ground operation is likely to win the referendum if this poll holds true.
This article can be found here.