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Why we should look closely at the precise wording of second referendum polling questions

April 10th, 2018

Same poll split sample producing very different responses

VERSION ONE:Once the negotiations between Britain and the European Union over a Brexit deal have been completed, do you think there should or should not be a public vote on whether Britain accepts the deal or remains in the EU after all?

VERSION TWO Once the negotiations between Britain and the European Union over a Brexit deal have been completed, do you think the public should or should not have a final say on whether Britain accepts the deal or remains in the EU after all

I was travelling yesterday stuck in the most appalling traffic jams and I’ve only just come up to date with this an analysis of the YouGov polling on whether there should be a second referendum and the impact of different wording.

This is polling that was commissioned by an anti Brexit campaign group and perhaps not surprisingly only the second set of findings were made available to the media over the weekend.

As can be seen the first part of the split sample were asked about a public vote which sounds quite innocuous and that produced a negative reaction to the notion of a further referendum. For the other part of the sample the question put it in a much more definitive way talking about emphasising the public having a final say and interestingly that produced a very different outcome.

Note that in neither question was the term second referendum used which I would suggest is a turnoff of itself. In one the term used was a public vote and in the other the format is final say.

Which is best as a way of assessing public opinion? Remainers would argue strongly that the the second version is best but then as in the famous Mandy Rice-Davis response “they would say that wouldn’t they”. The same would go for Leavers backing version one.

My guess is that this will influence the rhetoric of the stop Brexit effort. You’ll hear less talk of a second referendum with the emphasis on the public being given a final say.

Mike Smithson