Do 80 per cent of Britons really want to leave the EU?

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TL;DR: No.


The Daily Express leads with a startling front page today exclaiming that "80% WANT TO QUIT THE EU" in a boost for the paper's "crusade".

In what it describes as a "the biggest vote on this country’s ties to ­Brussels for 40 years" the Express - whose owner Richard Desmond recently donated £300,000 to Ukip - claims it is "overwhelming" evidence.

What they fail to dwell on is the fact that the poll was carried out by two renowned Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers - Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone - and another Conservative parliamentary candidate - Tom Pursglove - in just three constituencies in north Northamptonshire - Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby.

“Eight out of 10 people who took part want to come out of Europe – that is extraordinary," said Wellingborough MP Peter Bone - long fancied to defect to Ukip.

The fact that 14,581 people took part makes it sound like a statistically credible poll. However, apart from the fact that it was carried out in such a small area of the country, the team had also handed out 100,000 leaflets.

That means that only 14.5 per cent of people responded, 11,706 of whom opted to leave.

We could also suggest that only those who feel strongest about the EU are likely to respond to a poll like this - unlike a referendum that holds much stronger sway on the future of the country.

If one wanted to be equally biased, you could effectively say that only 11.7 per cent of people want to leave the EU - i.e. 11,706 people who voted yes out of 100,000 asked.

In an interview with the Northamptonshire Telegraph at the time the ballot was handed out, Mr Bone explained: "We have found huge advantages in going out and speaking to local people about the ballot when delivering it."

Unlike other polls, there is no statistical weighting on party political preference, age, gender etc etc. This is therefore clearly not a representative sample of the whole country.

Let's not also forget the completely unbiased wording:


(Pictures: Harry Jay)

This is not to completely dismiss the growing rise in Euroscepticism - YouGov's latest poll showed that 44 per cent of people would like to leave - but let's at least have a proper debate about it rather than resorting to the Express's magic calculator.


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