Opinion Polling in the EU Referendum: Challenges and Lessons

Thursday 8th December, 1300-1700, Royal Statistical Society, London

Please join us for this event, jointly organised by the National Centre for Research Methods, British Polling Council and Market Research Society.

Register for this free event at: Eventbrite


This event is jointly organised by the National Centre for Research Methods, British Polling Council and Market Research Society.

The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union presented the opinion polls with a formidable challenge. Support for Remain and Leave crossed party lines. Rather than a debate between left and right, opinions reflected a division between social liberals and social conservatives. Even if the polls had overcome the difficulties that had beset them in 2015 – and that appeared to be still a work in progress – there was no guarantee that methods that had been honed to estimate party support in a general election would work effectively in this seemingly very different environment.

As a result, the campaign was marked by a lively debate about polling methodology, and significant methodological experimentation and adaptation by polling companies. In the event the final polls correctly indicated that the result would be close, but for the most part, incorrectly indicated that Remain would be the most likely winner.

With speakers from the polling companies and members of the BPC/MRS inquiry into the performance of the polls in the 2015 election, this seminar features presentations of how the polling companies set about their task and independent evaluations of the methodology that they used. Its aim is to identify the key lessons to be learned from the referendum for the future of opinion polling.


13.00Registration opens
13.30Welcome from Jane Frost (Market Research Society)
13.35Introduction from the Chair: Sharon Witherspoon MBE (Academy of Social Sciences)
13.40Polling in the EU Referendum: an overview, John Curtice (British Polling Council & University of Strathclyde)
14.05The challenges of polling by phone in the EU Referendum, Ben Page (Ipsos-MORI)
14.20The challenges of polling via the internet in the EU Referendum, Adrian Drummond (Opinium)
14.35Discussion and Q&A
15.00Tea & Coffee
15.20Sampling and mode of interview, Patrick Sturgis(NCRM, University of Southampton
15.45Treatment of don’t knows and turnout weighting, Stephen Fisher (University of Oxford)
16.10The effect of methodological adjustments during the campaign, Will Jennings ( University of Southampton)
16.35Discussion and Q&A