EU Referendum: Too Close To Call

Weighted average of opinion polls released up to Sunday morning

We are now just 18 days away from deciding whether the UK should remain part of, or leave, the European Union. In the last week, many who previously thought that Brexit wasn’t a possibility, in the political sector, financial sector and elsewhere, now feel that it very well might happen.

The polls have been very interesting over the course of the last few months, with the huge disparity between telephone and online polls as I discussed earlier. However, the polling company YouGov, which specialises in online polls, has come up with a theory as to why this is. They say that the telephone polls are, for one reason or another, picking up too many people with university degrees (45%, compared to 30% in the census). As these people are more likely to vote remain than to leave, this skews the overall result in that direction. They suggest, if the responses are weighted to reflect the census, the result of these same polls will be much closer to 50–50.

Further, ICM conducted a simultaneous telephone and online poll after YouGov released their findings. I cannot find what change, if any, they made to their methodology since their first experiment on the subject in April, but it showed both methodologies much closer to each other (and to 50–50) than their previous attempt. So this casts a shadow of doubt on all telephone polls conducted throughout the campaign so far.

Now there is good news for the Remain campaign, and it comes from undecided voters. At the moment, there are more of them leaning towards staying than there are towards leaving. Whether you want to call the Remain campaign a positive case for the EU or “Project Fear”, it’s starting to cast seeds of doubt on our future outside Europe, and it could mean that we see a spike in that direction in the days leading up to the 23 June vote.

However, turnout will also be key. The most recent Survation poll, compared to one conducted around the same time before last year’s general election, show that voters, including the normally-not-bothered 18–34 demographic, are more likely to vote in the referendum than in the general election. However, when this is broken down, 86% of Leave voters, compared with only 77% of Remain voters, say they are 10/10 likely to turn out to the polls. The further risk to the Remain campaign is how many first-time voters will be turned away as a result of them not being registered. How many people that will be, we simply do not know.

So there’s enough in the polls to keep both the Remain and Leave campaigns just that little bit anxious in the final few weeks of the campaign. Both sides will have to use the final 18 days to persuade us not just to support their side, but to turn up to the polls. Because given how close this is set to be, every vote will make a difference.

The referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is on Thursday 23 June from 07:00 to 22:00 BST, with the votes counted shortly after polls close. UK, Irish and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK or Gibraltar are eligible to vote, as are UK citizens who have been living abroad for less than 15 years. You must be on the electoral register by Tuesday 7 June (that’s two days from this writing) in order to vote. Citizens of other EU countries (other than Cyprus and Malta, by virtue of their Commonwealth status) are not eligible to vote.

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