No-one loves Theresa May’s deal – but what the public want vs what might be acceptable are not the same.

Our polling, conducted Tuesday November 28th on behalf of the Daily Mail, on attitudes to the Government’s Brexit deal showed significant change in public attitudes.

  • Despite its unpopularity relative to a range of alternative scenarios, awareness of, and public support for the UK Government’s Brexit withdrawal agreement has increased significantly.

  • No-one loves Theresa May’s deal – but what the public want vs what might be accepted are not the same.


Damian Lyons Lowe. founder, Chief Executive

After dealing with an inbox full of scepticism, and accusations of bias and cherry picking, I’ve had time to sit down and write something in detail  about my own views on what this polling means.



Since Survation’s November 15th polling, support for the Government’s Brexit withdrawal agreement has increased among all groups. Conservative voters, previously split, have swung toward supporting the deal: If public mood is not as hostile as might have been the expectation, could parliament, find a way to support the EU’s withdrawal deal?


Have you seen or heard any details, about the UK Government’s Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU? Yes: 72% (+13)  No: 21% (-13) Don’t know: 7% (-2)


From what you have seen or heard so far, do you support or oppose the UK Government’s agreement? (Base: Those who have seen or heard any details, changes vs November 15th)


MPs are to vote on the Government’s Brexit withdrawal agreement on the 11th December,  how would you like MPs to vote?



This is of course, the key question MPs will soon face in parliament 

MPs will vote to back or reject the PM’s deal in parliament December 11th. Some people say there may be a Labour amendment to the bill that perhaps technically speaking, might be more like a permanent backstop, but can we honestly say would the public would not grudgingly approve of a deal that sounds like the PM’s deal but is also one many Labour MPs could sign off on?

Since November 15th Labour voters moved +16 toward supporting May’s deal, Conservatives didn’t support it, but now support the deal in this week’s poll by 50% to 29% opposed, and while only half of Conservative voters “support” the deal, 62% want MPs to vote for the deal, along with a plurality of leavers and remainers.


But wait, isn’t this polling contradictory?


Reaction to our poll for Wednesday’s Daily Mail was a mixture of surprise, confusion, shock, or even anger among those who, after reading the different questions were faced with what were apparent contradictions that did not, at first glance, make any sense.

The polling showed that Theresa May’s deal was less popular with the public (37%) than remaining in the EU (46%), and less popular (35%) than leaving the EU with no deal at all (41%) – so how could it also be true that in the same poll when the public were simply asked “from what you have seen or heard so far, do you support or oppose the UK Government’s agreement?” there was actually a little more support than opposition (a statistical tie) and a big swing toward support for May’s deal from when we last asked the exact same question with fieldwork November 14th


No-one loves Theresa’s deal – but isn’t that the point? – What the public really want vs what might be accepted

This polling actually showed interesting new findings about the mood of the country as we approach a potential settlement of the whole messy business.

An examination of the detail shows quite clearly that there is a difference between what the public want conceptually and what they think should happen now, relative to the current political situation – an impasse that many suggest can only be bridged by returning to the polls in another referendum or an election.


Using responses to a 3-option referendum question from the polling, we can explain the public mood better. We asked;



If there was a referendum tomorrow, with the following 3 options on the ballot paper, which would you support? 


My first Choice


My second Choice


Total saying first or second


Remaining in the EU








Leaving the EU without a deal








The government’s Brexit agreement








Respondents could indicate their preferred option and then their second. They were not compelled to provide a second choice or were able to simply say that they did not know to either.

Are we nearly there yet? – can an “unhappy compromise” square the circle?

For our respondent’s first preferences, the government’s Brexit deal is, as with the head to head style questions, less popular than leaving without a deal and clearly less popular than simply remaining in the EU. But critically, if asked to compromise – indicating their second preference, the PM’s deal becomes the least unpopular solution. In total 707 respondents indicated the PM’s deal was their first or second choice – leapfrogging the alternatives.

So in what seemed an impossible task after the EU Referendum – negotiating a deal with the EU that could both pass a parliamentary vote and provide a way forward for the public’s still divided opinions on the UK’s future, perhaps this hitherto unloved compromise of a Brexit deal (just about) provides the solution.


There was a KCL study “What sort of Brexit do the British people want? which examined the ‘trade-offs’ people would be willing to make in reaching a Brexit deal, that concluded something not dissimilar to what the EU have offered the UK:


The Policy Institute at King’s College London looked specifically at “trade offs” for a deal in great depth. Conducted in October 2018, it received a fraction of the publicity of this single poll, but the findings are certainly worth a re-visit. Using “discrete choice analysis” KCL conducted a really interesting study to understand the UK public’s preferences for a Brexit outcome. If you don’t fancy looking through the document, the TLDR version is:


  • The British public still want a deal, which is based on a close relationship with the EU, with the most preferred option resembling membership of the EEA


  • People continue to place the highest value on continued access to EU markets for both trade of goods and services.


  • People continued to place a moderately high value on restricting freedom of movement but this is not as important as continued access to the single market.


  • People value UK sovereignty over our laws, but not as much as access to EU markets for both trade of goods and services


Damian Lyons Lowe.


Survation interviewed 1030 people aged 18+ living in the UK online on 27th November 2018

Data tables for the deal related questions can be found here:

How would your own constituency vote if there were a re-run of the EU Referendum? Check out

Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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