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Populus’s referendum night guide

Read Populus’s explanation of our final poll: http://www.populus.co.uk/2016/06/populus-published-poll/  

Populus rosette

Populus has not published a voting intention poll since the universal failure of the polls at the general election last May. We took a conscious decision to stand back and look seriously at the causes of the problem and to conduct a series of reviews and experiments in order to produce polls that provide consistent results and in which we have faith. This has included publishing Polls Apart in conjunction with Matt Singh from Number Cruncher Politics, an analysis of the impact of availability bias on the different performance of phone and online polls in tracking the referendum question.

Since the political cycle produces few opportunities to test methodological theory against real life, we have decided to put our final referendum poll – conducted separately from and independently of the Remain campaign for whom we have been working – into the public domain. We do not do so lightly, but we have always believed in being transparent in our methods and wanted to be open about our current view of the state of public opinion. What we reproduce here is a product of tighter quotas, including balancing our sample by social attitudes, perceived national identity, political interests and recent voting behaviour as well as by traditional political and demographic methods. These results also reflect not only people’s stated likelihood to vote but also their propensity to do so based on their characteristics as well as the underlying attitudes of those who are likely to have voted but who have not stated a referendum preference.

The actual result will be known soon enough, but by publishing our prediction we hope to demonstrate that with careful quotas and statistical modelling online polling can be robustly representative of the voting public when it comes to measuring sensitive political issues.

As we get to election night, what can the early counts tell us about the final result?

Normally results from areas like Sunderland, Newcastle, Stockport, Wigan (heavily Labour), Malvern Hills, Basildon, Hart (Tory heartlands) won’t tell us much about who will win the General Election. However, we think that a number of early declarations will give strong indicators of the likely direction of the night. Whether it’s a narrow win for leave or remain, or whether remain is some distance ahead.

What’s interesting is that a number of early declarations comprise some of the most Eurosceptic and “Remain-y” parts of the country. Sunderland (12.30), Hartlepool, Oldham, Swindon, Merthyr Tydfil, Wigan, and Basildon (all between 1.00am – 1.30am) should all show massive leave victories, if it is to have a chance of winning nationally. By contrast early declaring London and Scottish Local authorities (City of London, Wandsworth, Ealing, East Ayrshire, and Stirling) should give remain some of its biggest wins of the night.

If Leave is going to win, it needs to be scoring 60%+ in Sunderland, and in the high 60’s in Hartlepool; one of its heartlands. If the leave vote is nearer 50% in Sunderland and 60% in Hartlepool then Remain can start to feel confident.

There are though amongst the early declarations some “bellwether” authorities, likely to be closer to the national result. Newcastle upon Tyne (1.00am), Stockport (1.30am), Denbighshire (1.40am), Hart and Malvern Hills, (2.00am), Hertsmere and High Peak (2.30am) are places that you would never normally politically group together. However, they are for one night only likely to show similar vote shares in this Referendum, vote shares, which crucially, should be somewhere near the national average revealing how this Referendum is simply not business as usual.

Further Analysis from Populus

Polls Apart – a joint investigation by Populus and Matt Singh from Number Cruncher Politics, one of a very few correctly to predict the outcome of the last General Election, to analyse the differences between the online and phone results of EU referendum polling and to proffer an explanation.

The Latest Polls and Predictions – while the polling is close and the proportion of voters saying don’t know has steadily declined, Remain have enjoyed a – very – slight lead for much of the campaign. On the final day of the campaign, the polls suggested Remain has the smallest of advantages over the Brexit campaign.

The Brexit Index – a who’s who of Remain and Leave supporters. Younger voters back Remain while their grandparents tend to back Leave, those with a university education are strong Remain supporters but those without are a key part of the Leave coalition. Scotland and Wales both support Remaining in the EU (the former more strongly than the latter), but in England only London is solidly Remain – outside of London, much of England backs Leave.

MPs Expect… – predictions for the referendum results from MPs and the wider public. Four times as many MPs expect the Remain campaign to win as expect the result to be a victory for the Leave campaign (79% vs 19%). MPs predict a turnout of 63%.

Business journalists call for business leaders to speak out on the EU three quarters of business journalists think that the British economy will lose out over the next two years if Britain leaves the EU and they call on business leaders to stop hiding behind their industry bodies and begin to speak out on issues that matter to the EU debate.

‘Nothing’ is top EU referendum news story – a month ago we reported that despite the big day drawing ever closer, the public were yet to take notice of the campaigns or, indeed, any of the political mud-slinging that invariably accompanies national decisions of this magnitude. Having now carried out the last of our EU TTMN polls, we can officially confirm that the run-away most noticed referendum news story is…’nothing’.

Best Analysis from Elsewhere

How good are Referendum Polls in the UK? – Political scientists Stephen Fisher and Alan Renwick, on their Election Etc blog, review the historic performance of polls across ten referendums, from 1975’s EC membership vote to 2014’s Scottish Independence vote. They conclude that the status quo option often outperforms its position in the polls.

How history hits Brexit for six – journalist, broadcaster and pollster Peter Kellner – reviews the evidence of past referendum and concludes “while the record of past referendums does not guarantee a shift to “remain” in the final days of the current campaign, it does suggest that such a shift is more likely than not.”

What the UK Thinks – polling expert Prof John Curtice’s regularly updated analysis of the latest Referendum polls and developments.

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