James Forsyth

Why all the certainty about the referendum result?

Why all the certainty about the referendum result?
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Right at the start of this campaign, a senior figure at Vote Leave told me that if they were level in the opinion polls on referendum day, they would win. Their view was that differential turnout, with their voters being more enthusiastic, would overcome any status-quo bias. Well, the last Opinium poll has Leave on 45%, Remain on 44% with 9% as don’t knows. Now, we should remember that polls aren’t all knowing and that one earlier today had Remain ahead. Opinium polls are conducted online, and online ones tend to be more favourable to Leave. There are still some more polls to come—and they may be better for Remain than Opinium.

Personally, I still think the Remain vote is marginally more likely than a Leave one. But I wouldn’t be surprised by any result now. This is why I find the certainty about the result in the markets and, to a lesser extent, at Westminster rather puzzling.

Another thing nagging away at me is the anecdotal evidence. The reports you hear back from the campaign trail are more positive for Leave than Remain. Now, this might be about Leave supporters being more vociferous. But one In supporting Tory MP said to me recently, if so many of us are finding our patches more difficult than we expected, where is the Remain majority coming from? One explanation for this could be because at the start of the campaign most Tory Inners expected In to win by a relatively comfortable margin, 55-45 so a narrow Remain feels like hard pounding. Alternatively, voters might want to put the wind up the establishment before, eventually, voting for the status quo.

But the reports from the ground are another reason not to be too sure about what will happen tomorrow night.