Archive for November, 2017

Want to stop Brexit? This is the question to watch.

Posted in Europe, Politics, Polling Matters on November 26th, 2017 by Leo – 1 Comment

Was Brexit the right decision? (image: getty)

On Polling Matters last week I mentioned something about Brexit polling that’s been on my mind for a while, but which I haven’t written anywhere. It’s this:

Polling questions on a second referendum get quite a bit of attention. They find there’s not much desire for one – typically 30-35% support the idea. The same applies for blunter questions on stopping Brexit, which find even less support.

This is often used as evidence that Brexit is unstoppable. I think that’s the wrong conclusion.

Relatively few prominent commentators currently say Brexit can be stopped. This is surely a major reason roughly 50% of 2016 Remainers have given up on the idea.

But opinion on this kind of thing can change quickly. Not long before Theresa May called the snap election 55% of Tory voters said there shouldn’t be an early vote. Just after she announced it, 64% of them said it was the right decision. This is a subject where politicians and commentators lead public opinion.

That’s not to say majority support for a second referendum is just a few taps of the keyboard away. It does need to tap into a genuine shift in the public mood – but the question we should be looking at is whether Brexit is seen as the right or wrong decision.

Opinion on that has apparently shifted towards “wrong decision”, but only very slightly. The most recent YouGov poll gives it a 4-point lead – 52% vs 48% when you exclude don’t knows – which isn’t enough to say the public mood has shifted decisively.

If that “right/wrong decision” question shifts further – perhaps to 60% saying it was the wrong decision – there will be much more justification for commentators to argue the public want another say. At that point I’d expect opinion on a second referendum to shift quickly.

That’s why, if you’re interested in knowing whether the public could ever support overturning Brexit, I suggest focusing much more on the “right/wrong decision” question and much less on the ones that actually ask about stopping it.

I talked about this, and the state of the polls since the election, with Keiran and Matt Singh, on Polling Matters:

Want Americans to support something? Get Trump to oppose it

Posted in U.S. on November 19th, 2017 by Leo – Be the first to comment

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair. Credit: Michael Vadon

Campaigners spend years trying to change public opinion. They organize rallies, publish reports, set up photo ops, and cross their fingers it’ll make a difference.

It turns out there’s a simpler way: get Donald Trump to oppose whatever you want.

On issue after issue, the best thing to have happened to progressives looking for public support is for Trump to have come out against them.

From climate change to foreign trade and from equal marriage to the death penalty, whatever Trump thinks, the US public are concluding the opposite. He is making America liberal again.

Stopping climate change, which Trump has said is a Chinese hoax: more Americans are greatly worried about it than at any point in the last 30 years.

Abolishing the death penalty, which Trump recently called to be used in a terrorist case: support is at its lowest level since 1972.

Keeping Obamacare, which Trump has repeatedly tried to abolish and sabotage: more people support it than oppose it for the first time.

Welcoming immigration, which Trump wants to restrict: the view immigrants help the economy is at a record high.

Liberalising foreign trade, which Trump is undoing: record numbers now see foreign trade as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Allowing equal marriage, which Trump has suggested he might block: support is at a record level.

Being wary of Russia, which Trump doesn’t seem to be: a (joint) record number now have an unfavourable view of Russia.

Encouraging women to be managers: Trump is very male and, famously, the boss. Americans are increasingly doubtful of that combination.

Honestly, I don’t really think this is all because of Trump. Let’s give Paul Ryan some credit too.

And, yes, most of them have been trending in that direction for years, part of long-term social shifts. The recent movements look like jumps in the way they were, generally, already heading.

But, still, there’s nothing like a historically unpopular president, with strong opinions and a loud voice, to make millions of people reconsider their own views.

 

My book, The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism, is published by New Internationalist.