Was the LD survey designed to give the result the leadership wanted?
My general suspicion of ALL privately commissioned polls has been reinforced by two surveys in the past 24 hours which relate to the big vote in the Commons tomorrow over whether there should be a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.
This is an issue where the Lib Dem group of MPs could be decisive and the polls relate directly to them. One commissioned by the party from MORI was of voters as a whole – the other from a pro-referendum group was restricted to Lib Dem voters from 2005. The outcomes are remarkably different and this comes down to the way the questions were put. The LD paid for MORI poll asked two questions:-
The second sentence of Question 2 makes me very uneasy. Franky it stinks because it’s formatted as a forced choice – a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty OR on Britain’s membership of the EU altogether. The answer “both” was not put as an option although the pollster recorded the views of those who said this.
So amongst Lib Dem voters alone 30% wanted a referendum on the treaty, 37% wanted one on membership and just 7% said both – findings that are being trumpeted by the party to claim that there is widespread public support for its position of just wanting the “in or out” referendum.
That would have been fine except that within an hour or so the pro-referendum group Iwantareferendum produced an ICM poll giving a completely different picture. To the question “Do you think that voters in Britain should decide, in a referendum, whether or not to ratify the EU treaty, or should MPs in Parliament decide?” 67% of LD voters said “voters should decide in a referendum” against 30% who said “MPs should decide in Parliament”.
On the type of referendum 25% agreed with the Nick Clegg view that “We should have a one question referendum on simply being in or out of the European Union” while 70% agreed that “We should have a two question referendum: one question on simply being in or out of the European Union and then another question on whether or not to sign up to the new treaty”.
The difference between the two polls is that the LibDem funded one did not give the express option of both possible referendums – the ICM one did. For my money the latter gives a better representation of opinion.
The division between the two polls could be crucial today ahead of tomorrow’s vote. There are reports that Clegg is facing a rebellion amongst part of his parliamentary party who want to vote with the Tories. The polls discussed here could play a part in that debate.