Claim that 97% of Labour activists support remain alliance is flawed

Published: 29th Aug 2019

In brief

Claim

97% of Labour activists back a "Remain alliance" election pact.

Conclusion

Incorrect. This is based on a survey of supporters of a pro-remain Labour campaign group. It is not representative of all Labour activists.

“EXCLUSIVE: 97% of Labour activists back "Remain alliance" election pact”

HuffPost, 21 August 2019

Last week, HuffPost tweeted that 97% of Labour activists back a “Remain alliance” at a general election, which would involve Labour not running candidates in constituencies where another remain-supporting party has a better chance of winning.

HuffPost had similar wording of the story on its website, but has amended this to “reflect the poll was a survey of Remain Labour supporters”, rather than a survey of Labour activists generally.

The problem with the tweet and the original version of the article is that the poll was of a small campaign group focused on the Labour Party. It can’t be guaranteed it was representative of that group, and in no way reflected the view of all Labour activists.

The survey is of a small grassroots group

It’s first worth clarifying that Labour activists are not exactly the same thing as Labour members. There are multiple campaigns within the Labour party focused on different issues. Additionally, there are campaign groups external to the party that are focused on affecting the policies of the Labour party, but where membership of the Labour party is not a prerequisite.

Not all of the Labour Party’s roughly 500,000 members would be considered activists, and there are large campaign groups external to the party. For example, Momentum (another grassroots campaign group focused on the Labour party) claims to have 40,000 supporters. These groups also hold varied policy positions: for example there is both a Labour Leave group and a Remain Labour group, which are on different sides of the Brexit debate.

The 97% finding comes from a survey by one of those campaign groups: Remain Labour, a small grassroots group with around 2,000 likes on Facebook. Its two aims are (1) for the Labour Party to adopt a policy of supporting the UK remaining in the EU, and (2) for that policy to be put to general public either as a manifesto commitment in a general election, or through a referendum on the terms of Brexit.

Remain Labour’s survey was answered by just over 1,000 of its supporters, of whom 600 said they were Labour party members. In total, 992 respondents (97%) were in favour of a remain alliance and 33 (3%) were against.

In order to accurately represent the views of Labour activists, you would have to survey a representative spread of Labour’s campaign networks, accurately reflecting the balance of political views, as well as of things like age and gender.

Remain Labour’s survey results were not “weighted” to make them representative of its own supporters, and the survey wasn’t designed to canvass Labour’s whole activist base.

It’s also extremely unlikely that Remain Labour supporters are representative of Labour activists as a whole. Given that Remain Labour’s objectives are focused on the UK remaining in the EU it’s perhaps not surprising that the majority of the group’s supporters are in favour of a policy position that is designed to maximise the chances of the UK remaining in the EU.

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