The poll was conducted by and among Tories in a small area of the UK known to be sympathetic to quitting the EU
Today’s Daily Express claims that 80 per cent of British people want to quit the EU.
In what it calls the ‘biggest vote on this country’s ties to Brussels for 40 years’, the paper cites a poll which says that 11,706 out of 14,581 people voted to leave. The Express goes on to claim that the ‘overwhelming’ result boosts its own crusade to get Britain out of Europe.
Yet even the most cursory examination of the polling method used by the paper reveals the results to be skewed to the point of discredit.
The poll was organised by Conservative MPs Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone and Conservative candidate Tom Purslove, and was conducted across their three constituencies in North Northamptonshire – Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby and East Northamptonshire.
In other words, this was a poll of Tories in one section of the country: the three in question are right-wing Tories who organised a poll among their own voters. This isn’t representative, as the Express claims.
In the East Midlands, where the constituencies are situated, UKIP received 32.9 percent of the votes in May’s European elections. Furthermore, UKIP and the Tories are closely aligned in this area.
UKIP have made several attempts to poach Mr Hollobone; in September they delayed selecting a candidate for Kettering because they were sure they could convince him to defect.
Outgoing local party chairman Jonathan Bullock said that ‘his views are exactly those of UKIP, they are not those of David Cameron’. Hollobone refuses to meet with constituents who wear a burqa or niqab, and has attempted to pass a Face Coverings (Prohibition) bill.
Peter Bone, meanwhile, wrote in an editorial for The Guardian in which he claimed that the sole reason he hadn’t defected to UKIP was because only Cameron could deliver a referendum on the EU.
And Tom Pursglove wrote last April for Conservative Home that:
“The British people have been denied their say on our membership of the European Union since 1975. When I am out knocking on doors in Corby and East Northamptonshire as part of my Listening Campaign, people regularly tell me that it is about time they had the chance to have their say.
“It is for that reason that Peter Bone MP, Philip Hollobone MP and I, as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Corby and East Northamptonshire, are today launching a North Northamptonshire wide In-Out EU Referendum”.
So this ‘historic’ poll was conducted among people that the three MPs already knew were sympathetic to their aims and likely to give them the answer they wanted. Even today Bone admitted that, across the country, votes for an exit would ‘not [be] on the scale we have seen in North Northamptonshire’.
This is not to say that there is not a significant number of voters who want to quit the EU. The figures shift constantly, but tend to be roughly split down the middle. A Populus poll last April showed that 35 per cent of those surveyed would vote to stay and 32 per cent to leave.
An Ipsos Mori poll conducted in October indicated the highest level of British support for EU membership since 1991, with 56 per cent voting to stay in.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.