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U.K. Phone Polls Show Double-Digit Leads for Staying in EU

  • Surveys contrast with online polls showing race much tighter
  • Cameron to travel to Brussels Thursday for EU negotiations

Two new telephone polls of British voters found leads of 21 and 17 percentage points for staying in the European Union, in sharp contrast to two online surveys earlier this week that showed opposition to continued membership running neck-and-neck with support.

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In a survey for the Open Research group, ComRes found 56 percent of respondents saying they would vote to stay in the EU in the referendum that Prime Minister David Cameron has promised by the end of 2017, while 35 percent said they would vote to leave. The poll of 1,001 adults was conducted from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13. The figures are “remarkably consistent” with similar ComRes surveys in September and May, the pollster said in a statement on its website.

A second poll published Wednesday by Ipsos Mori for London’s Evening Standard newspaper showed 53 percent of respondents backed remaining in the 28-nation bloc, with 36 percent seeking to leave. The pollster interviewed 1,040 adults Dec. 12-14. The 17-point lead for the campaign to stay in the EU is up from 13 points in October.

Polls conducted online by ICM and Survation published earlier this week showed leads of 1 point for “remain” and 2 points for “leave” respectively. In contrast to online surveys, telephone polling has regularly shown clear leads for “remain,” ComRes said in a statement on its website. It noted that its phone polling before the general election this year gave a better prediction of the victory of Cameron’s Conservatives than the more usual online polling.

‘Unequivocal Lead’

“Much of the polling on the EU referendum since May has been done online, and much of it points to a race which is neck and neck,” ComRes said. “But telephone polling again suggests a different story: this time not showing a modest lead of a few points, but an unequivocal lead -- for staying in the EU.”

It noted that Ipsos Mori, the only other pollster regularly conducting phone polls, was also showing “consistent double-digit leads” for staying in the bloc.

ComRes conducted an experiment, asking the same EU referendum question online in a poll of 2,049 respondents from Dec. 9 to Dec. 12. In contrast to the 21-point lead in the telephone poll at much the same time, the online survey found supporters and opponents of EU membership tied at 41 percent.

“People choosing to sign up to an online panel are by nature more online-savvy. They are more likely to be engaged on social media and exposed to strongly held beliefs that we see in online encounters,” the pollster said. “On controversial subjects like the EU, where a minority hold their opinions strongly and the rest are less committed, it can make a crucial difference.”

Cameron will travel to Brussels on Thursday to press his case for renegotiating Britain’s membership of the 28-nation EU ahead of the referendum.

No margin of error was given for either the ComRes or the Ipsos Mori polls.

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