Opinion polls have earned themselves a pretty bad reputation — for obvious reasons — over the past three years or so.
But the ESRC Party Members’ Project is no ordinary opinion poll: it’s part of an ongoing wider academic study. Its recent findings regarding Labour voters’ and members’ attitudes to Brexit correspond to the overwhelming evidence of the last Labour conference and the statistics regarding the Labour vote in the last general election.
The study, part of the Party Members’ Project led by Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London, found that while Labour members still strongly support Jeremy Corbyn overall, they don’t agree with him on Brexit.
The polling of 1,034 party members shortly before Christmas found that almost two thirds believed Corbyn was doing very well or fairly well as leader, and 58% believe he could get a better Brexit deal than Theresa May as prime minister.
But it also found that only 18% opposed Labour campaigning for a second referendum.
If a new referendum was held, 88% of members would back remain, both in a two-way vote against either May’s plan or no deal, or in a three-way poll between all of them.
Prof. Bale noted some difference between the views of Labour voters and members. While a parallel poll of 1,675 voters found 73% of the party’s supporters believed the Brexit decision was a mistake, for members that rises to 89%.
The conclusions to be drawn are pretty obvious:
(1) Labour members tend to be loyal and give Corbyn the benefit of the doubt (or at least, were continuing before Christmas to give him that benefit) over tactics regarding Brexit.
(2) Labour members also strongly support Remain and a new referendum — especially if a general election cannot be achieved.
Bale sums up: “Our survey suggests Labour’s membership is overwhelmingly in favour of the UK
remaining in the EU and badly wants a referendum to achieve that end. It also suggests that Labour voters, while not as keen as the party’s members on either count, are in the same camp.
“Labour’s grassroots clearly hate Brexit, and although many of them still love Corbyn, he might not be able to rely for much longer on their support for him trumping their opposition to leaving the EU”.
So how is it that the Stalinists and other regressive pro-Brexit forces in and around Labour don’t seem to understand the survey’s findings?
The Morning Star (editorial January 4), grudgingly acknowledged the survey’s findings, but went on to state, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever:
“It is probable that if a survey sought the opinions of affiliated members — those who pay the political levy through their trade unions — the result might be more in line with working-class opinion as a whole...”
The editorial closed with a statement of such dishonesty that even a hardened old Star reader like your correspondent was taken aback:
Those “who place EU membership over the broader class interests of Britain’s working people... keep very quiet on the key finding which shows that while 29 per cent of individual members polled oppose Corbyn’s position, 47 per cent support it, while one in 20 don’t know.”
Bale is far more accurate:
“Labour members are, by their very nature, partisan — and most of them are still fans of Mr Corbyn more generally... Labour members are more supportive of the stance that the party has taken towards Brexit than are voters as a whole or, indeed, current Labour voters. Of the latter, only 30% say they support Labour’s stance — compared to 47% of members. Only 29% of members were prepared, notwithstanding their own Europhilia, to say that they actually opposed Labour’s stance, although some 24% were ambivalent or said they didn’t know.
“Still, it’s quite something when, on the issue that 61% of Labour members regard as the number one issue facing the country, only just under half of them actively support their party’s stance on it”.
Mind you, if the Morning Star is dishonest and selective in its coverage of the poll, the equally fanatically pro-Brexit and anti-new referendum Skwawkbox website (which has links to people within Corbyn’s office, notably Karie Murphy) has found a simpler way of dismissing the evidence. Namely, to create total confusion, to deliberately conflate the ESRC poll with a slightly earlier YouGov poll that came up with similar findings, so as to claim that it’s all a conspiracy got up by the “establishment” and “liberal ‘MSM’ outlets”.
The Skwawkbox doesn’t even refer to the ESRC poll by name (presumably because it doesn’t want readers to check it out for themselves) but (03/01/2019) simply denounces the Guardian’s (accurate) coverage and claims the poll “finds that most — fully 71% — either specifically support his Brexit approach, or don’t care enough about it to have an opinion, with a large majority of those supportive”.
The piece then goes on to show the findings not of the ESRC poll (the subject of the Guardian article they’re denouncing), but of the YouGov poll — though even that poll found support for and opposition to “the stance that the Labour party have taken towards Brexit” almost exactly evenly split among party members.
The only conclusion to be drawn, given the overwhelming evidence of where party members stand on Brexit and a new referendum, is that these Stalinist Brexiteers are simply liars, seeking to undermine the wishes of Labour members and commit the party to supporting Brexit — and dressing that up as a fantasy “Lexit”.
To check the ESRC findings for yourself, go here.