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european referendum

EU Referendum Portal


Our academic adviser, Dr Ed Gouge, takes you through what to expect on referendum night. If you want to know when to expect the result for your area you can also find it here.

For those who want to know the result of the EU Referendum it is likely to be a long night. The Government has required everywhere to start counting at 10pm but a majority of areas do not expect to have their results until after 3am. First there is a check to make sure that the number of ballot papers in the hall are the same as the number issued (including postal votes), which takes about two or three hours and then they will be sorted into Remain and Leave piles and bundled up and a final tally made.

Unlike the general election there will be no exit poll to flash up at 10pm for what has recently been a very accurate prediction of the result. It is rumoured that hedge funds are paying for private exit polls, which cannot by law be made public until 10pm, so that they can speculate on the £ during the day but these will be difficult to interpret. The general election exit polling looks at change in party vote since the last general election at selected polling stations. For the referendum there is no base line to predict from and different types of voters tend to vote at different times of day or have already cast a postal vote and so the result of polling at, say 2pm, may be quite different by 10pm.

So we will need to wait for results to come in one by one. If it is close, these actual results will also be difficult to interpret. Results will be declared by local authority (except in Northern Ireland where it will be by constituency) and it is highly unlikely that all areas will vote the same way, given how close the polls are, and we have much less of an idea which will be the marginal local authorities in this referendum so we won’t be able to look for key marginals declaring early such as Basildon or Nuneaton as we could in the general election.

This does not mean that we cannot tell anything from the early results. We do have some information from polls. After the polls mostly failed to predict the 2015 general election we have to be cautious and telephone polls have tended to show a Remain majority and internet polls a Leave majority. However, in the general election we were talking about mistakes of a few percent and the trends below are much bigger than that.

What do we already know…

Regional Information

There have not been any local polls, many of these were spectacularly wrong in the general election anyway, but there is regional information :-

  • It looks very much that London is strongly for Remain. It is difficult to tell from the available data about other regions but there is some suggestion that the Midlands are stronger for Leave.
  • Scotland is strongly for Remain, with both the SNP and Labour campaigning to stay in the EU
  • Wales overall looks relatively close but polls show the Valleys as particularly strong for Leave, rural Wales, where the influence of pro-remain Plaid Cymru has more effect, much less so
  • Northern Ireland has a Remain majority though perhaps less solid than it seemed a few weeks ago. The Protestant DUP is for Leave but the Catholic parties and the smaller Protestant UUP are for Remain. The future of the border with the Republic and the peace process are important issues here.
  • Gibraltar has a vote in this Referendum, unlike the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands,

and polls there show an overwhelming majority for Remain, given the potential effect that Spain might shut the border again causing problems for the Rock.

Social Information

There is an indication from the detailed breakdown of polls about how social groups intend to vote:-

  • People over 65 are more likely to out Leave and people 18-30 more likely to vote Remain
  •  People in social housing are more likely to vote Leave
  • People with higher educational qualifications are more likely to vote Remain
  • Ethnic minority voters are more likely to vote Remain

Therefore if we know the social composition of a local authority then it will give us some indication of how likely it is to vote one way or another, though just an indication as factors may cancel each other out and other local factors may be at play.

Local Factors

Labour and Liberal Democrat voters are more for Remain, although Northern and West Midlands Labour MPs are reporting support for Leave among their working class supporters. UKIP voters are obviously for Leave and Conservative are more evenly divided but tending towards Leave. The political composition of a local authority area will also give an indication as to how it might vote. UKIP has had most support in local and general election in East Anglia, South Essex and the South Coast

In February, YouGov put together questions which they feel reveals how Eurosceptic or Europhile their respondents were into an index by local authority to indicate how Eurosceptic/Europhile a local authority area is. Here is the link:

There is no automatic correlation between the Index and how people might vote in the Referendum, for example, the Welsh Valleys in the polls are strongly for Leave but Rhondda comes out as one of the most Europhile area and , of course, the Index is based on a relatively small sample of voters. One or two of their results, such as Bradford being highly Eurosceptic, look odd. Nevertheless there are clear trends. Scotland, big cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff, Inner London and surrounding boroughs and university towns, such as York and Southampton, come out as more Europhile. New Towns areas such as Peterborough and Bracknell Forest, Midlands and rural East Anglian counties and economically poorer Northern towns such as Blackpool, Barnsley and Rotherham come out as more Eurosceptic. Not all of London is Europhile, the East London Outer London Borough of Havering is the most Eurosceptic in the country.

Dr Ed Gouge