How Britain’s best-selling newspaper covered up its own huge finding. By STEVE ANGLESEY
If a major opinion poll commissioned by Britain’s best-selling newspaper revealed huge support for the statement ‘Brexit is an historic mistake and only now are people realising it’, you’d imagine it would be pretty big news, right?
Well, the first bit happened. And the second didn’t.
Deltapoll’s survey of 1,904 adults for The Sun On Sunday, published on August 18, showed 44% of respondents agreeing, with 30% disagreeing – a convincing lead of 14%.
Yet, curiously, to discover this you had to read down to the 23rd paragraph of 29 in a story by Sunday political editor David Wooding.
There was no room in the Sun’s print edition or online for a graphic illustrating the startling finding either (they had space for another 11 graphics from the poll, though). That hidden poll
And even more remarkably, a Sun editorial published on the same newspaper spread contradicted the findings of its own poll, claiming, ‘Remoaners and Brussels have done their best since the Leave vote to make us think we made a terrible mistake… Well, today’s poll is clear. We didn’t.’
Why did the fact that a large plurality of those polled agree with the idea that Britain is making an ‘historic mistake’ fail to make headlines?
The obvious answer would be that the pro-Brexit newspaper, edited by Victoria Newton, simply chose to bury it in Wooding’s piece because it doesn’t fit in with their relentless drumbeat that Brexit is wonderful and that a no-deal exit will carry no risks whatsoever. Instead they led with 47% supporting the statement ‘we should just leave on March 29 as planned’.
And there was an awful lot of guff to plough through in the 22 paragraphs before Wooding got to the killer finding (which, laughably, he began began with the words ‘there is also a split over whether leaving the EU will prove an historic mistake’). A split? Bananas
Like ‘former Cabinet minister Priti Patel last night said ‘The Sun on Sunday’s poll shows that the British people ultimately believe we can build a stronger future for our country outside the EU.” Or ‘ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the poll had ‘nailed the lie’ that many people regret voting Leave’.
Like the Sun’s editorial, these quotes do seem to contradict the poll finding that by a 44%-30% margin, voters agree that ‘Brexit is an historic mistake and only now are people realising it’. Did Patel and IDS know about that bit when they offered their two penn’orth?
What else featured in those important first 22 paragraphs? In number 14, Wooding told us: ‘Most people – 55 per cent – are against a second in-out referendum, according to our poll.’
Yet the actual figures show 31% backing another Leave or Remain poll, with 15% supporting ‘a second referendum but only on the terms of the deal’. So equally accurate would be to say that ‘most people – by 46% to 40% – support a second referendum’. But the anti-People’s Vote Sun on Sunday didn’t choose to word it like that.
In fact, this particular poll didn’t ask people how they would vote if an in-out referendum was held tomorrow or what they would plump for in a three-option, two-preference People’s Vote where the options were the final negotiated Brexit deal, staying in the EU or a no-deal Brexit. Only a cynic would suggest that this was because almost all similar recent surveys have shown majorities for Remain in both scenarios.
For Brexiteers, there was the apparent good news that 15% of Remainers but only 11% of Leavers agreed with the statement ‘I have changed my mind on whether we should leave the EU or not’.
In his ongoing quest for good news, No.10 director of communications Robbie Gibb (cruelly nicknamed ‘Tragedy’ by Bee Gees-savvy rivals) tweeted that out, but overlooked the finding that 59% of respondents thought his boss Theresa may was doing her job badly.
The question was so ambiguous (when did they change their mind and how would they vote now?) that not even the SoS was too excited about it, putting it down in the 17th paragraph.
What excited the Sun on Sunday, Patel and IDS was the 47% in favour of going on March 29 2019. And no wonder.
For these horsemen of the real Project Fear, it seems to signal that even though ordinary people now believe Brexit to have been an historic mistake, they are prepared to go along with it as long as it shuts people like the Sun on Sunday, Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith up for a little while.