Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? That is the question that British voters will answer on Thursday 23 June and one thinks that bookmakers are underestimating the turnout.
There have been 18 United Kingdom General Elections since the end of World War Two and 16 of them have had turnouts greater than 63%, including each of the last two – 65.1% in 2010 and 66.1% in 2015. One cannot understand why bookmakers think that the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum turnout figure is likely to fall below 63%.
First, there is the experience of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. An opinion poll conducted roughly six months before the referendum suggested that a high turnout would occur, with 75% of respondents indicating that they were certain to vote. Ultimately, 84.5% of eligible voters went to the ballot box as Scotland voted against becoming an independent country. The Scottish independence referendum mattered to millions of people and one thinks that the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum is equally important, particularly to English voters.
Second, YouGov has run several United Kingdom European Union membership referendum opinion polls in which not voting has been an option for respondents. Rarely have more than 5% of respondents indicated that they will not vote in the referendum and the number of undecided respondents has declined as the official campaign has progressed.
Third, it makes sense that the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum turnout is likely to be higher than a typical United Kingdom general election because, in simple terms, every vote counts. Many of the 650 seats contested during a United Kingdom general election are safe insomuch that they are held by large margins and, therefore, voters whose political leanings differ from those of the seat’s incumbent member tend to tune out – they feel that they cannot make a difference so they do not go to the ballot box. Referendums are different, not only because every vote carries equal weight but also because the questions that they ask require voters simply to mark either yes or no.
Coral is offering odds of -120 that at least 63 per cent of eligible voters participate in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, a line that one thinks is on the low side if the bookmaker is seeking two-way trade.
One’s gut feel is that the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum will result in a win for the remain campaign that David Cameron is heading up. Cameron has staked his Conservative Party leadership on the outcome, plus the Scottish independence referendum showed that the status quo enjoys a massive edge in close contests – people are resistant to change, especially on a significant scale.
The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum winner market appears to be right on the money but one thinks that bookmakers are several per cent off the mark when it comes to forecasting the turnout. A line of 63% strikes one as much too low to back anything other than over, with the correct line probably closer to 70%. One should note that millions of Conservative Party and UK Independence Party supporters have waited decades for a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union so they will be out in force. So, too, will be the millions of people who believe that the United Kingdom’s future is at the heart of the European Union.
In 1975, British voters were asked if the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community? More than 65% of eligible voters turned out for that referendum and one cannot see why fewer than 63% will turn out this time.
More than 63% of voters to participate in the referendum
23rd June 2016