Britain will Brexit if young voters fail to turn out. It’s a real possibility.

Opinium was the most accurate online pollster at the 2015 General Election. They have just released their final poll of the referendum campaign: Leave 45%, Remain 44%, and 11% undecided.

There was a swing in the polls last week, which began before the Jo Cox assassination and seems to have primarily been driven by worries about a post-Brexit economy, which spiked sharply at the time of George Osborne’s ‘punishment budget’. That has stalled and may have even gone into gentle reverse.

There was an assumption that there would be a late Remain surge. It has not materialised. There is also an assumption that those making up their minds on polling day will break for more towards Remain. This is on the basis that late deciders allegedly ‘always’ break for the status quo in referenda. Well ‘always’ is too strong a word, and past history is not a crystal ball for future performance.

John Curtice, the Glasgow-based academic whose exit poll almost perfectly called last year’s General Election result, has warned repeatedly this week that the betting markets are greatly underestimating the possibility of a Leave vote and said this afternoon the vote sits on a 50:50 knife edge.

YouGov have warned that the huge age skew of the electorate makes things much harder for Remain. A look at their interactive model is sobering for Remainers. Older people are much more likely to vote than younger people – and many older people have already voted by post.

Britain Stronger In Europe are aware of that fact, and that they probably need epic youth turnout to counter it.

Hence the flood of celebrity endorsements this week, not all of them vapid, some of them well argued and personal: Rio Ferdinand’s and John Barnes’ are particularly good, and cockney darts legend Bobby George’s video is a masterpiece of profane viral marketing. The Clarkson-May endorsement video has now been seen by well over 2 million people between YouTube and Facebook, more than buy The Sun these days. I imagine a few promises of knighthoods were made in the process.

The Leave online effort late in the campaign has been pedestrian in comparison, mostly clips from TV debates. But then, it didn’t need to be, because their voters are more reliable, and are much more likely to read newspapers – heavily anti-Europe – and much less likely to get news largely from social media.

Both campaigns have fought relatively shambolic ground wars over much of the country. I know for a fact – I was involved in one and live in a core target area for the other. Neither was impressive.

So, what will decide this knife edge election? Three things, I think: obviously, what way the undecideds break; secondly, the intensity of the youth vote; and, finally, will the anti-politics angry people who haven’t voted in years turn out?

I don’t think there’s much doubt about the last one. Turnout will be high. Postal vote returns are above General Election levels. I reckon turnout will be in the low to mid 70s %. That’s sticking my neck out, but there is a quiet intensity here in small town England, and not just on the Leave side. All of a sudden, after the Jo Cox murder, people started walking around town with ‘In’ badges and posters appeared in windows, especially in the better off parts of town.

Will the young turn out? Almost certainly not as well as other people – they never do, anywhere, even in Obama’s 2008 wunderjahr in America. There is, however, hope for Remainers in that ORB’s tracker of certainty to vote by age has seen a real spike among under 35s over the past 10 days and also a slide in certainty to vote among over 65s. For Stronger In, the social media viral bombardment needs to keep going until 9.50 pm tomorrow, not just to get young people to vote, but to get them to nag their friends to vote.

So the final question is how will the undecideds break? My head tells me more towards Remain, and not just because of ‘conventional wisdom’. Those for whom Brexit could be sold on immigration and sovereignty are already voting to Leave. A lot of the undecideds are very conflicted – they like the idea of a European Union, but they hate what the actual EU looks like in practice. Mostly they really dislike the campaign Leavers have fought, but didn’t have much time for Project Fear either.

The decisive factor, to my mind? The economy, stupid.

I don’t think Leave has sold the deal on the economy. In unguarded moments, Leave leaders have repeatedly acknowledged there will be a post-Brexit economic dip, and we all know politicians spin, so that means they think it’s going to be worse than that. Particularly among the 25-45s, where debts are higher, especially on mortgages, job security is lower, and the emotional pull of nationalism less, reasoning tells me they’ll break for Remain, maybe quite heavily.

I can smell a very definite shift of Tory undecideds and even soft Leavers to Remain here in the southern English shires, and I have today seen three posts on Facebook, two from paid up Tory Party members, explaining why they had moved from conflicted Leavers to sceptical Remainers. All cited the lack of a credible post-Brexit gameplan as being crucial.

I’ve also long wondered would there be a ‘silent majority’ factor in play. People keep their heads down when they know they’re in a minority surrounded by people who passionately disagree with them. Leavers have been more vocal and passionate throughout the campaign. It takes self-confidence and a serious command of political facts to argue with an enthusiastic Leaver in full flight. In working-class areas, in particular, I think those with doubts on the wisdom of leaving have just kept quiet.

In the secrecy of the polling booth, people can do things they never thought they’d do when they had to justify it to others. The Left discovered this to their cost in many Western countries in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Could the nationalist Right be about to discover that now?

Either way, there will be at least a very significant minority of last minute undecideds breaking for Leave.

Given that, the biggest single factor affecting Remain’s chances is how much higher than normal turnout among the under 35s is. The young, most strongly in favour of the EU and most likely to be negatively affected by any post-Brexit economic crash, must take the responsibility of keeping the UK a member into their own hands.

And now the fate of the nation rests on crosses marked in wooden booths on little bits of paper, and the soft rustling of ballot papers being counted.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Thanks, Gerry. I do wonder if the hidden strength of Remain will turn out to be overseas voters, who are not represented in polling but may (if the rumoured levels of postal votes are true) have turned out in unprecedented numbers. Anecdotally, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they voted ages ago.

    I’ve done a guide to what I think will happen tomorrow night here.

  • Msiegnaro

    Project fear, the In camp have nothing positive to offer.

  • Thomas Barber

    Thats a good arguement against what this man forecasts Nicholas.

  • Jollyraj

    Britian? You might want to correct that. Granted, it isn’t quite on the level of ‘Booby’ Sands, but still..

  • Abucs

    I think that is a very good point, although of course i’m on the other side. I have aunts and uncles living in Spain with British passports who wonder about their future pensions. Not sure if they have already voted, but it is likely. Their views would not have showed up in any of the polling and there are lots of them. Retired UK expats that is, not my expat aunts and uncles.

  • Angry Mob

    As someone firmly in the midst of that target demographic I would in the interest of balance encourage those to ignore the group think effect of polls and say that the young can take responsibility and vote to ensure that we leave. By the same token we stand to benefit the most.

  • chrisjones2

    Some history

    ‘Won’t you join our Common Market?’ said the spider to the fly,

    ‘It really is a winner and the cost is not too high’.

    ‘I know De Gaulle said ’’ Non’’, but he hadn’t got a clue,

    ‘We want you in, my friends and I, as we have plans for you.

    ‘You’ll have to pay – a little more – than we do, just for now,

    ‘As Herr Kohl said, and I agree, we need a new milch cow,

    ‘It’s just a continental term, believe me , Mon ami,

    ‘Like ‘’Vive la France’’ or ‘’Mad Anglais’’ or even ‘’E.E.C.’’.

    ‘As to the rules, don’t worry friend, there’s really but a few,

    ‘You’ll find that we ignore them – but they all apply to you.

    ‘Give and share between us, that’s what it’s all about,

    ‘You do all the giving, and we all share it out.

    ‘It’s very British, is it not, to help a friend in need?

    ‘You’ve done it twice in two World Wars, a fact we must concede.

    ‘So climb aboard the Market Train, don’t sit there on the side,

    ‘Your continental cousins want to take you for a ride’

  • chrisjones2

    “And now the fate of the nation rests on crosses marked in wooden booths on little bits of paper, and the soft rustling of ballot papers being counted.”

    And we still have that choice in the UK – unlike the EU where the Commission is not selected by the people

  • chrisjones2

    “By the same token we stand to benefit the most.”

    HOw do you see paying the most net money to Europe as benefiting the most?

  • Msiegnaro

    Stop talking sense.

  • Declan Doyle

    That’s actually very good.

  • Kevin Breslin

    That may be true, but obviously there are Leave voters in the younger generation. What worries me more is non-voters. We cannot simply assume that the old voters want to stop “open door” UK, while young people fear a “locked-in UK”.

    I’m neither a young voter nor an old voter, but one who is median age.

    I’m quite passionate about why I am voting remain, but I humbly accept that if there is a Leave vote, that is an act of UK self-determination and self-determination comes with the proviso that you cannot determine someone else’s.

    That simply changes the job of pro-European members of the UK to protect its interests from a retreat or surrender by those who by doctrine support splendid isolation and self-indulgent mono-culturalism.

    I am a proud passionate European, I believe there is no less humanity in the European Union and its Parliament than can be seen in Westminster or Dáil Éireann.

    If the UK chooses to be outside the European Union just like Norway, I really doubt it’s the end of the world for the pro-Europeans in England, Scotland, Wales and here, but I fear for people’s jobs, connections and their livelihoods … not mere MEPs but workers who rely on EU legislation to bring their salary home.

    I trust the people to make up their own mind. I have made up mine.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘…but workers who rely on EU legislation to bring their salary home.’
    Who might they be Kevin? There can’t be very many of them.

  • Angry Mob

    .
    By the same token we stand to benefit the most… by leaving

  • Kevin Breslin

    Service industry workers both UK/Irish and European, who rely on free movement and the hassle free movement of goods between European nations. I believe that privilege will be reduced if not removed by both sides of this.

  • Reader

    Thursday morning, Bangor. I voted early, as usual (07:10). This was a lot busier than for the elections, and several other people remarked upon that. Not a single one of the people I saw was less than 45 years old.

  • Gerry Lynch

    My polling station was relatively busy when I voted. I was the nearest thing to a young person, but then again this in older part of a relatively elderly town at 9.05 a.m. and most people of working age don’t have the luxury of a 10 minute walk to work for a 9.15 start. Huge turnout across England by the looks of things, including in key Remain strongholds like Inner London – photos of massive early morning queues to vote, mostly of under 45s, in South London doing the rounds. Scotland and nationalist bits of NI are the places where turnout might undo Remain, but I haven’t heard anything so far.

  • Msiegnaro

    Wonderful and accurate.

  • Msiegnaro

    All’s good then for Remain, the vote has been decided long before today.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Sure, by Bilderberg, the Lizard People and the chemtrails. All controlled by Prince Philip.

  • WindowLean

    I’m the wrong side of 50 but still consider myself young, is there a demographic for me??. I’ll leave it until about 9:30pm before I vote. Remain to save you asking (as are Mrs WL and daughter)

  • Msiegnaro

    Your scaremongering has been atrocious.

  • Gerry Lynch

    =I said things you didn’t want to hear.

  • jm

    Husband and I voted this morning in Newtownabbey. Honestly, we were the only ones under 75, I’d say!

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Whats “hassle free movement of goods between European nations?” I often get goods from the US and UK delivered to the middle east. Never had hassle. Are there some crazy people running around Europe hassling delivery companies??

  • Msiegnaro

    It made no difference to me at all.

  • Chingford Man

    I admire any young person voting for Remain. It takes real guts to vote for something that is against your long term material interests and those of any family you might start. It means overloaded schools, surgeries, public transport; wage compression; new noddy houses everywhere; yet more unsustainable mass migration. All these existing problems will get worse if the UK remains.

    The core of today’s Leave vote will likely be those who voted Yes 41 years. They were educated by events. If Remain wins today, I suspect its voters shall be similarly educated, not least from seeing the Eurozone explode close-up.

  • Zorin001

    Local polling station is a lot busier than it was at a similar time two months ago for the assembly election, and all ages too.

  • Brendan Heading

    Not in this case, Gerry. I believe the entity posting as “Msiegnaro” is the latest attempt by a group of people working out of an abandoned Orange Hall on the outskirts of Dromore to design an algorithm to pass the Turing Test.

    From what I can tell the algorithm is designed to examine contributions on Slugger and select the most appropriate one-line response from its database. Although based on the performance to date, I’d speculate that the code is written in COBOL running on a DEC PDP-8/S with the database stored on an 8″ floppy drive.

  • Starviking

    As opposed to the 57 million Turks we’ve been told will swamp up is we remain in the EU?

  • Gerry Lynch

    Bowling strikes, braw!

  • Msiegnaro

    Doesn’t matter we’re free now.

  • Starviking

    Free? No, I’m not – rules forbidding UK Nationals below a certain level of richness from returning to the UK with a mixed- nationality family mean I am effectively exiled from my land. A land where the pound in the pocket gets weaker than before. We’ve never had it so bad.

    (Apologies to Harold Macmillan)

  • Msiegnaro

    Sorry to lose you but that’s democracy.