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LONDON, PARVATHI MENON: With the last big debate of the European Referendum held at the Wembley stadium on Tuesday night over, and the arguments of both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ sides exhausted, the field is open to public opinion polls, prediction markets and informed guessing in the countdown to the referendum to be held on Wednesday.
After a bruising campaign with both sides guilty of making misleading claims, and which saw a surge in support for the ‘Leave’ campaign in recent weeks, opinion polls now suggest the two sides are very close, with ‘Remain’ scoring a marginal edge.
What UK Thinks, run by NatCen Social Research, Britain’s leading independent social research agency, has given ‘Remain’ a lead of 51/49, based on a summation of the six most recent polls of voting intentions in the EU Referendum. Bookmakers are more bullish on ‘Remain’. The Financial Times reports that bookmakers William Hill makes a ‘Remain’ vote an 81 per cent chance, although it must be noted that bookmakers also make their predictions based on opinion surveys.
Then there is the informed guessing based on past and present voting knowledge. For example, ‘Leave’ voters comprise older Britons who are more likely to vote than the young who are pro-‘Remain’. Or a low turnout will favour ‘Leave’ and a high turnout ‘Remain’. Scotland and Northern Ireland will vote ‘Remain’ whereas middle England will vote ‘Leave’. London will vote overwhelmingly in favour of ‘Remain’ because of its multicultural composition. Urban UK will vote ‘Remain’ and rural UK ‘Leave’. Ethnic minorities and south Asians will vote overwhelming ‘Remain’. Women are more likely to vote ‘Remain’ than men. Even the weather has been drawn in as a factor. Stormy weather, which is predicted on voting day, will help ‘Leave’, because it will deter all but the most determined voter, who is a likely ‘Leave’ supporter.
The big media have spoken their minds, as have several celebrities. The Times, Guardian, Sunday Observer, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph have editorially supported ‘Remain’, while the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Sun support ‘Leave’.
If the Scottish referendum of 2014 is any guide then ‘Remain’ will carry the day. In Scotland, a last minute shift by the undecided voters toward ‘Stay’ (staying in the U.K.) tilted the scales, despite a robust grassroots campaign run by the ‘Leave’ side and a lackluster and demoralised campaign by ‘Stay’. Undecided voters prefer to be risk-averse. In the case of the U.K. referendum, the broadly felt antipathy towards the European Union institutions may be eclipsed in the final count by the fear of change, especially given the predictions of doom that the ‘Remain’ camp have been making. The one view that all are agreed upon is that should ‘Leave’ triumph, it will be a watershed in Britain’s political life.