Political déjà vu it may be, but with two weeks left in a referendum campaign the future of the United Kingdom’s political future is very much in the balance.
In two weeks the EU referendum will take place and Britain will decide whether to Remain within or Leave the European Union in a vote that is already having major impacts on both the British and European economies and political culture.
This post isn’t setting out any arguments for or against either campaign, I’ve already set out why I think Remain is the best option, but by looking into the polls and dissecting the current trend and how it may play out in the remaining two weeks I hope to show what the result will end up being.
What we’ve been struck by in this campaign is that there has been a big divide between online and phone polls. Online polls have shown the race as completely neck-and-neck all the way, while phone polls initially were showing a clear Remain lead before recent methodological changes have brought them more in line with what online pollsters were finding. As always with polling, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle – and while it’s not comfortable for the Remain camp it does mean that they have the slight edge.
Here’s a quick overview of how the polls stand, with full data in the box below:
So as you can see, the Remain side are just ahead – but there’s some things in the next few weeks that should help them consolidate their lead.
We’re already seeing the same unease in the financial markets over an impending Brexit that we saw over the prospect of Scottish independence, and the warnings from business about the damage that it could cause did appear to be a catalyst last time for a last minute reverse in the trend towards separation.
There’s also the fact that in elections and referendums there’s normally a swing towards the status quo within the last days of the campaign. We saw that last year with the General Election and we saw it Scotland’s independence referendum, and in fact we’ve seen it in almost all major UK votes over the last twenty years.
This may only be worth a couple of percentage points, but with a race as close as this it should be enough to tip the Remain side over the line.
Despite all this though, complacency from anyone who believes in the UK’s EU membership is a sure-fire recipe for disappointment and defeat. This referendum has been characterised by a lack of information from both sides of the debate about the future beyond the vote and that means that voters will need to make more of a “split decision” on the day. This means that any sort of gaffe or event in the next few weeks that goes against the Remain camp could end up swinging enough voters the other way that the battle is lost.
And this means that the referendum is still all to play for. For the Leave side, they have just two weeks to make the case for their cause to be achieved and they’ll need to throw everything they have at convincing people that the future is secure enough and the economy will survive an EU exit. If they can do that then they might just win, but the time to create and communicate the arguments for this isn’t on their side.
The way the polls are shaping up, and with other factors considered, Remain will likely win by a whisker. The disaffection with the EU is real, and just like here in Scotland a narrow defeat by the breakaway faction might mean that the issue isn’t settled once and for all like the winners may hope, but there isn’t enough support either for a major political shift.