“Most people, including most supporters of the Labour party, regardless of how they voted three years ago, think the referendum must be respected”
That’s what Boris Johnson told the Commons last night.
We assume he’s referring to a ComRes poll published by the Telegraph this week, which found 61 per cent of voters agree with the statement “whether or not I voted for Brexit, the 2016 referendum result should be respected.” (It’s the only poll we can find from the last few days that uses this form of words).
But as ever with matters Brexit, the picture is more complicated than it first appears.
What do Labour voters think?
Despite Mr Johnson’s claim that most Labour supporters “think the referendum result must be respected”, only 38 per cent of those who plan to vote Labour at the next election agree with the statement he’s referring to. Meanwhile, 43 per cent disagree and the rest say they don’t know.
What do voters want from Brexit?
The problem with asking voters whether they agree with the phrase “the referendum result should be respected” is that it’s not quite clear what that entails.
Does it mean we should leave the EU on 31 October come what may? Or should we only quit when there’s a deal in place? MPs have spent the last three years agonising over these very questions.
So it might be more instructive to look at other measures. For example, the same ComRes poll asked voters to choose their preferred outcome from five options, including deal, no-deal, different timelines, and the option to remain.
A combined 55 per cent of voters across all parties and persuasions said they want some form of Brexit (deal or no-deal, before or after 31 October). Among those, there was a clear preference for leaving with a deal over leaving without one (34 per cent vs 21 per cent).
The single most popular Brexit option was leaving with a deal before 31 October, backed by 29 per cent of voters. The government say this is their preferred route, too.
Some 37 per cent of voters want to remain in the EU, and 8 per cent said they were undecided.
What would happen in a second referendum?
Another way to gauge support for Brexit is asking people how they’d vote in another referendum.
The latest data we have is a poll conducted by Survation on Wednesday.
Overall, 44 per cent of voters would back leave in a second ballot on EU membership, 51 per cent would back remain and a further 5 per cent said they didn’t know.
Removing the “don’t know” answers, the pollsters calculate a 53:47 split in favour of remain.
This is consistent with the “poll of polls” conducted by the organisation What UK Thinks: EU, which is run by the National Centre for Social Research under the auspices of Professor Sir John Curtice.
Those stats, which use an amalgam of polls by Survation, Kantar, Deltapoll, Panelbase and YouGov, find the same ratio of leavers to remainers. By this metric, the remain lead has been unassailed since March 2018.
As for Labour voters, Survation finds only 15 per cent of those who plan to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s party at the next election would support leave in a second referendum, compared to 77 who would back remain.
Although of course, one caveat with all of this is that we shouldn’t put too much stock in any one poll.
Boris Johnson said “Most people, including most supporters of the Labour party, regardless of how they voted three years ago, think the referendum must be respected.”
A poll out this week shows 61 per cent of voters agree with the statement “whether or not I voted for Brexit, the 2016 referendum result should be respected.”
As for Labour supporters, only 38 per cent of those who plan to vote Labour at the next election agree with the statement he’s referring to, and 43 per cent disagree.
More generally, we don’t think asking people about “respecting the result” is that helpful: after all, politicians have spent three years debating what that actually means.
A more useful question in the same poll found that 55 per cent of voters want some form of Brexit. Among those, there was a clear preference for leaving with a deal on 31 October. This is the government’s stated ambition.
As for a second referendum, the “poll of polls” reveals 53 per cent of Brits would back remain in another in-out vote, compared to 47 who’d want to leave.