Let the referendum campaign commence!

The ten-week campaign to convince the UK that it would be better/worse off as part of the European Union has officially begun. Since Friday’s official launch, both sides’ biggest hitters, from David Cameron to Boris Johnson, have refused no opportunity to appear on our TV screens and tell us their side of the argument.

Weighted average of all opinion polls released up to Sunday evening

It doesn’t take much to figure out why both sides are bombarding us with facts (and exaggerations). A weighted average of opinion polls on the subject puts Remain a tiny fraction ahead. The clear lead that the Remain side had in the lead-up to February’s EU summit has all but evaporated, and with around 1 in 6 voters undecided, convincing these voters will be vital in making this decision.

As interesting as these headline figures are, digging into the breakdowns of these figures show some interesting figures. Nobody will be surprised to hear that Scotland is the most Europhile region of the country (63%), given how big of an issue the EU was during the 2014 referendum on independence. London is also strongly supporting Remain (58%), due largely to the contribution that the EU is making to the capital’s economy. However, when you take the rest of England and Wales, the Leave side is a small fraction ahead (50.6%), as they don’t see the EU helping their livelihoods.

Also interesting is the age breakdown, which shows quite clearly that there is a clear correlation between how old you are and how you are likely to vote. Pensioners (65+), who have historically been the most likely group to turn up at the ballot box, are currently supporting the Leave camp by a 2–1 margin. Younger voters (18–24), who are historically less likely to turn up, are currently supporting Remain by a 3–1 margin. So part of this campaign will be convincing those who would not normally turn up to register and to cast a ballot. Now, if turnout at the 2014 Scottish referendum is any indication (85%), that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Also interesting is the distinction between those in this country who are well-off and those who are struggling. Those in managerial and professional roles (so-called A/B/C1 classes) are about 60–40 in favour of Remain, as it gives them access to a larger workforce and improves their ability to trade with the rest of the EU. However, those in manual roles or on benefits (so-called C2/D/E classes) are about 60–40 in favour of Leave, as they see the unskilled migrants from the EU undercutting their wages, or their ability to get a job altogether, and they think that leaving would boost their incomes.

Finally, I noticed one interesting point in the gender breakdowns. Even though there’s no statistical difference between men and women who’ve decided how they intend to vote, women are twice as likely to be undecided as men (23% vs 12%). This will quickly become a key demographic that both sides will be targeting over the next ten weeks.

With just under ten weeks to go until Britain makes its decision, you can expect a number of “facts”, figures and analysis from both sides of this debate. Everyone will need to do their research and come to their own conclusions, because it’s all to play for on 23 June.

In order to vote in this referendum, you must be a citizen of the UK, Ireland, a Commonwealth country or a crown dependency, and be living in the UK or Gibraltar. Citizens of other EU countries are not eligible to vote, nor are UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years. You must also be registered to vote with your local authority before 7 June (or by 16 May if you will be voting from overseas). You can register to vote here.

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