The odds, which are often more accurate than the polls because they show the “wisdom of the crowds”, had been shifting slowly but clearly towards the “Remain” side in the UK’s forthcoming referendum on EU membership even before three polls yesterday showed a marked shift in that same direction.
Why would this be?
In fact, our suggestion would be that the shift has happened almost entirely in England, and it has happened in such a way that in fact the referendum result in each of the four countries of the UK could end up much more similar across all four than many had assumed. (The commonly stated assumption has been that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would vote heavily “Remain” while England may vote marginally “Leave” – though in fact all the evidence has been that Wales will vote much more in line with England than with Scotland.)
Very little attention has been paid to the reason for the shift, but our suggestion is that it has happened mainly among Conservative voters and has to do with their increasingly being persuaded of the case that the UK will have more global influence of it remains part of the EU (this view was already widely accepted among the population according to previous surveys and polls, but it had not previously had much effect on voting intention).
There is another possible reason. A peculiarity of referendums in the UK, perhaps a result of its electoral system and naturally quite personality-focused political coverage, is that politicians rather than ideas remain central to each case. It is quite possible that some prominent “Leave” campaigners are actually making the campaign toxic. Our analysis does not particularly show this, but reliable commentators are beginning to suggest it.
Yesterday was probably the most interesting day of the campaign, resulting even in a marked rise in Sterling in the currency markets. But it is not over yet – there will be other interesting days to come!