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Polling Failure in the UK

[ 50 ] May 12, 2015 |

UK_opinion_polling_2010-2015

As the occasional (charitably) LGM Senior British Correspondent, I’m going to weigh in with a series of thoughts on the British General Election last week.  Cards on table: one of several reasons for my extended sabbatical(*) from LGM has been my active involvement, time permitting, in the Labour Party campaign here in Plymouth.

When I walked into the Plymouth Guildhall Thursday night around 10:15 to participate in the counting of the ballots as a count agent for my Constituency Labour Party, following 14 hours on the campaign trail, I was immediately confronted with the exit poll conducted by several pollsters for several media organisations.  The poll was a shock as it was inconsistent with the narrative created by the last year of public polling released by the major houses.  All the major polls, and the five or six seat projection models, suggested a hung parliament. The largest single party in this new parliament would likely be the Conservatives, but they would only have anywhere from five to 15 more seats than Labour, and the maths suggested there was no way the Tories could form a stable minority government, let alone a coalition:

The exit poll will be out very shortly, and then we’ll have a good idea (or a false one). But first, here’s the game. No one is going to win an overall majority, so it’s all about who can cobble together 323 seats – the number needed for a majority – by banding together with other parties.

Second, Labour seem the most likely to win that game. May2015’s Poll of Polls, which has averaged all the latest polls since September, has finally finished adding numbers up. It’s conclusion? The Tories are going to win 33.8 per cent of the vote, and Labour are going to win 33.7.

This was the narrative the pollsters stood by, and the narrative that those of us academics called upon by the media used as the foundation for discussion (with our own various caveats).  Quite obviously this was wrong, and I’m plastered all over the media both in Devon and the Southwest of England as getting it very wrong.

For the 2015 General Election, we had access to considerably more, and richer, data than in elections past. It felt like an embarrassment of riches, and a certain hubris resulted.  In addition to the national level polling, Lord Ashcroft released around 130 constituency level polls of marginal seats.  These, with the expected N of around 1000, for the first time allowed us to understand how the national numbers and trends were being reflected at the constituency level not only occasionally, but systematically. We were in a position where we could finally bury the swingometer based on the mythical uniform national swing.

The interesting academic question from this election is why polling in the UK failed as bad (if not worse) than it did in 1992.  At this early point, we don’t know, and anybody offering a definitive explanation is taking a significant risk.  There are working theories and interesting questions; four can be found here from YouGov, ICM, Populus, and ComRes. Labour’s internal pollster has an observation here, which is intriguing given the methodological insight revealed for the internal polling. Of course, as these data are not in the public domain, any conclusions drawn are not definitive.  Finally, Eric Kaufmann (one n removed from a relation with our own SEK) has this intriguing take here at the LSE blog. I have one potential minor critique of the Kaufmann piece — his methodology is based on 130 of the Lord Ashcroft constituency level polls, and some of these were ancient in political terms.  Speaking for the two constituencies that represent 15 of Plymouth’s 20 electoral wards, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport was polled in August, while Plymouth Moor View was polled in December.  (The third, Southwest Devon, wasn’t touched, as it’s a very safe Conservative seat.)  These polls estimated a 13 and 11 point Labour victory respectively; on May 7th, the Conservatives won both constituencies by 1.1% and 2.4%.

It is likely that no single cause will explain the polling failure of 2015.  I have an additional theory that I’ll discuss soon assuming it passes prima facie.

(*) The other reasons include being elevated to an administrative role in my department (cue up Bunk to McNulty here), and that this election has increased my media calls significantly. I’ve done somewhere north of 60 appearances in the past twelve months. Rob suggested last week that I link these to LGM.  I will in the future when I can, if only that you, too, can laugh along with the audience at home.

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Social Desirability and Response Validity in Current Polling

[ 22 ] September 28, 2012 |

Several days ago in these very pages, discussion ensued regarding the latest conservative attempt to rewrite reality through re-weighting polls to one guy’s liking.  Of course, polling is not an exact science, but it is a science, and the latest wingnut delusion has no grounding in theory or empirical evidence.  Like any science, survey research continuously attempts to improve upon the validity and reliability of its measures and findings.  While I’m not at all concerned about some nefarious (and successful) attempt by the MSM and that paragon of power, the Democratic Party, to turn otherwise professional and reputable polling houses into duplicitous shills.

However, I have been somewhat interested (note, not concerned) if there might be something else going on that causes the polls to over estimate support for Obama.  Social desirability bias is something I’ve published on in the past (direct link to the paper here).  While that article suggests a contextual effect that causes variance in social desirability across countries (regarding accurately reported turnout in survey research), relevant here is what is colloquially known as the Bradley Effect.  It’s possible (though I consider it unlikely in the specific context of the 2012 Presidential election) that this helps explain Obama’s consistent polling advantage in an election where many if not most structural conditions suggest an incumbent defeat.

It’s difficult with the data I have available to examine this hypothesis to any satisfaction, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

To begin with, we have the current state of the polls.

Obama Romney Advantage
RCP 28 Sep. 48.6 44.6 4.0
538 28 Sep. 52.2 46.5 5.7
538 6 Nov. 51.5 47.4 4.1

 

RCP’s running average has Obama up 4 points, Nate Silver’s “nowcast” model up 5.7, and his current prediction for election day 4.1 points.

If social desirability is at work here, a poll respondent will state that she or he supports the President because internally, our not entirely sincere respondent is seeking the socially desirable response, and not supporting the black guy might be racist.  However, this is done knowing that they will ultimately support the white guy.  Practically, this would mean that Obama’s support in these polls is inflated.

I’m approaching this from several directions.  First, I’ve averaged the final month of polls for Presidential elections going back to 1976 (an arbitrary cut off) to examine how accurate the polls were in predicting the final outcome between two white men, with 2008 to serve as a benchmark for 2012.  Shift represents how wide of the mark the final polls were, to the benefit or detriment of the incumbent party.

Poll Result Shift
2008 D 7.6 D 7.3 0.3
2004 R 1.5 R 2.4 0.9
2000 R 3.0 D 0.5 3.5
1996 D 11.0 D 8.0 -3.0
1992 D 12.0 D 6.0 -6.0
1988 R 12.0 R 7.0 -5.0
1984 R 18.5 R 18.0 -0.5
1980 R 4.0 R +10.0 -6.0
1976 D 2.0 D 2.0 0.0

 

Social desirability response bias in an election can take on many forms, not just race.  To wit, the 1992 general election in the United Kingdom is a good case study (one I lectured on here at Plymouth about six or seven years ago, shame I have no clue where those lecture notes now reside) as the polls largely predicted a narrow Labour outright victory or a hung parliament with Labour having the plurality of seats, yet the Conservatives under John Major easily won by 7.5%.  This is called the Shy Tory Factor on this island, which is simply another manifestation of social desirability.  But in 2012, I’m primarily considering race, and comparing 2008 to past elections does not support the hypothesis that this might be a problem for Obama’s numbers in 2012.

I also considered several of the primary elections in January, 2008.  This was the beginning of a primary where Obama was a somewhat unknown junior senator only four years into his Congressional career, going up against the assumed nominee.  For these data, I average all polls from the last week of the campaign in the given state (there were 20 in New Hampshire alone).

Poll Result Shift
NH Obama 35 37 2
NH Clinton 30 39 9
NV Obama 33.25 45 11.75
NV Clinton 37 51 14
SC Obama 41 55 14
SC Clinton 26 27 1

 

This evidence is more ambiguous than the examination of previous general elections.  Both Clinton and Obama received shifts in their favor, which isn’t surprising considering the undecideds presumably made a decision of some sort once voting.  However, in both New Hampshire and Nevada, the shift was stronger towards Clinton than Obama: a 7 and 2.25 point advantage respectively.  Both are dwarfed by Obama’s advantage in South Carolina.

These are the wrong data to be analysing this with, of course; ideally we’d have individual level data.  While not individual level data, the following figure, by Greenwald and Albertson, offers a more holistic view of the 2008 primaries.

The above shows that among 32 states where data were available, the “Bradley effect” was only evident in three states, yet 12 states demonstrated what has been termed (erroneously, in my opinion) the “reverse Bradley effect”: states where Obama’s support in the primaries was under, not over, estimated (see South Carolina above).  I consider this an erroneous classification because where the theoretical explanation for the Bradley effect hinges on social desirability, the reverse has been hypothesized as a function of systematic sample bias, through either the under-representation of African Americans in polling samples, or the cell-phone effect.  However, some have hypothesized that “black voters might have been reluctant to declare to pollsters their support for Obama”, and the link above does discuss that

After the Super Tuesday elections of February 5, 2008, political science researchers from the University of Washington found trends suggesting the possibility that with regard to Obama, the effect’s presence or absence may be dependent on the percentage of the electorate that is black. The researchers noted that to that point in the election season, opinion polls taken just prior to an election tended to overestimate Obama in states with a black population below eight percent, to track him within the polls’ margins of error in states with a black population between ten and twenty percent, and to underestimate him in states with a black population exceeding twenty-five percent. The first finding suggested the possibility of the Bradley effect, while the last finding suggested the possibility of a “reverse” Bradley effect in which black voters might have been reluctant to declare to pollsters their support for Obama or are under polled.

There are numerous possible explanations for the “reverse” effect, including faulty likely voter models, under sampling of blacks, sampling bias due to cell phones, to name a few.  There might be some sort of contextual effect at work here, but to ascribe it to behavioural motivations (rather than factors exogenous to the individual, such as sampling bias) such as blacks being shy to state their support for Obama fails the face validity test to me.

Ultimately, given the wide array of mediocre data presented here, I am not concerned about social desirability biasing the estimates of support for Obama in any significant, substantive manner.  However, much as I’d like to, I wouldn’t say that the Republican conspiracy is more likely, if only because that is so creatively ludicrous I initially thought it was an Onion piece.

Push Polling!

[ 0 ] March 20, 2010 |

Ten minutes ago, the wife received a call Family Research Council. The first question: “Do you have a favorable opinion of President Obama’s government run health care proposal?”

After she answered “Yes,” there were no further questions. I suspect that there would have been more than a few additional queries if the answer had been “No.”

UPDATE: IPE@UNC marshaled the mighty power of empirical science to determine the truth of my last statement:

They called the wife’s phone about 10 minutes later and she let me answer. This time when asked if I supported the Marxist take over of everything great about America I said “No”. Were there follow-ups? Why….. yes! Of course there were. The next question was some variant of “Do you support abortion?” I said “No” and then the robot lit into a 30 second rant about how Obama pledged to Planned Parenthood during the campaign that he’d do everything in his power to eliminate all restrictions on abortion (which I think is untrue, but maybe not) and strongly implied, without directly saying so, that passage of the health care bill would lead to just that outcome. Then the robot asked if I’d be willing to contact my congressman about this issue and I said “Yes”. The robot then helpfully gave me my representatives’ information.

More on British Polling and Margins of Error

[ 0 ] March 2, 2010 |

I promise that this will not be a daily habit of mine, but the Tory +2% lead poll did generate the predictable breathless excitement on these islands.

YouGov’s daily tracker indeed moved back towards +6, as anticipated, at Conservative +7. Additionally, a ComRes poll was released yesterday for The Independent which places the Tory lead at +5 (37/32/19). I want to emphasize that the +2 poll released on Sunday, while at the fringes assuming a true value of +6, is still within the margin of error. It was not an outlier in a pedantic understanding of the word, which is a case three standard deviations removed from the mean.
In other words, the findings reported in the Sunday poll were not “wrong”. 95% of samples will yield the true value within the error band of +/- 3%, as this was. This is why we have margins of error in the first place.

What we should focus on is not the point estimate itself, but the trend — and the consistent trend is clearly away from the Tories and towards Labour.

Speaking of which, the +5% Tory lead reflected in The Independent’s poll still yields a distribution of seats as Labour 287, Conservative 272, Liberal Democrat 59 — assuming a uniform national swing.

UPDATE ( 3/3/10): Again as expected, Wednesday’s YouGov tracker is rather consistent, at Conservative +5 (C 38 L 33 LD 16). Given the last seven to ten days of polling, this suggests a true value of support around + 6%, and if not precisely 6 (and it isn’t) it’s slightly below 6%.

Preliminary Colorado exit polling data

[ 0 ] November 4, 2008 |

This is weighted by affiliation but doesn’t attempt to incorporate early voting:

Obama 52

McCain 47

Senate Polling

[ 0 ] October 31, 2006 |

Some new CNN data. It still looks like 50-49-1 to me, with Tennessee looking like a write-off. The one ray of hope is Virginia–the polls are still even, and given the D.C. suburbs I can see Virginia going Democratic in a toss up race the way I can’t see Tennessee. On the other hand, MO is also still a toss-up, although I’m inclined to think the Dems will take it.

Polling Data

[ 0 ] September 17, 2004 |

Via Kos, John Zogby makes a compelling argument that telephone polling, as we know it, is obsolete:

Zogby points out that you don’t know in which area code the cell phone user lives. Nor do you know what they do. Beyond that, you miss younger people who live on cell phones. If you do a political poll on land-line phones, you miss those from 18 to 25, and there are figures all over the place that show there are 40 million between the ages of 18 and 29, one in five eligible voters.

This is pretty interesting, and does not admit an obvious solution. Zogby had moved to internet polling, which may or may not give a more accurate account. We’ll have to wait for November to clear some of this up. In any case, the huge spread of current polls is probably due to something more than the difference in likely voter methodology.

I’m not current with the legalities of polling via cell phone, although I have noted that I tend to receive very few unsolicited calls on my cell (very few solicited ones, either; I’m one hell of a loser). Myself and my roommate have gone the cellular/cable modem route, and no longer have a landline at all, meaning that we are apparently politically invisible. How will the invisibile people sort themselves out in November? Well, we’re young, which may help the Dems, and we’re probably a touch more affluent than normal (correcting for the fact that we’re young) which favors the Republicans.

Brexit — The Ultimate “Triumph” Of Voter-As-Consumer

[ 278 ] June 25, 2016 |

borisbarney

We’ll be seeing lots of more of this kind of thing, I would assume:

Mandy Suthi, a student who voted to leave, told ITV News she would tick the Remain box if she had a second chance and said her parents and siblings also regretted their choice.

“I would go back to the polling station and vote to stay, simply because this morning the reality is kicking in,” she said.

“I wish we had the opportunity to vote again,” she added, saying she was “very disappointed”.

Khembe Gibbons, a lifeguard from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, also said she had regrets about her decision after Mr Farage said he could not guarantee NHS funding.

“We’ve left the EU, David Cameron’s resigned, we’re left with Boris, and Nigel has just basically given away that the NHS claim was a lie,” she wrote.

“I personally voted leave believing these lies, and I regret it more than anything, I feel genuinely robbed of my vote.”

A woman calling into an LBC radio show echoed the sentiment, saying she felt “conned” by the claim and felt “a bit sick”.

A voter who gave his name as Adam told the BBC he would have changed his pro-Brexit vote if he knew the short-term consequences it would have for the UK economy.

“The David Cameron resignation has blown me away to be honest and the period of uncertainty that we’re going to be magnified now so yeah, I’m quite worried,” he said.

“I’m shocked that we voted for Leave, I didn’t think that was going to happen. I didn’t think my vote was going to matter too much because I thought we were just going to remain.”

I don’t know how many Brexit voters fall into the remorseful category. But I remember seeing somewhere (HELP ME BROCKINGTON) that a large majority of Brexit voters assumed that Remain would win. For what was surely a decisive number of Brexit voters, the vote was not a considered view that leaving the EU would be better than remaining, but rather was a vehicle for sending a message to British elites.

To be clear, the biggest villains here are not ordinary voters. David Cameron’s entirely unnecessary gamble was astoundingly incompetent and grossly irresponsible. The reaction of Boris Johnson — the proverbial dog that caught the car — should make it pretty clear that the anti-EU faction of the Tories were more trolls than revolutionaries. And the way you deal with trolls is to ignore them, not to try to shut them up with a binding referendum with huge downside risks. Needless to say, Johnson and Farage and the pro-Brexit tabloids are absolutely shameless liars mobilizing racist resentment, and they deserve all of the criticism they receive and worse. But Cameron knew what they were, and he empowered them to try to gain a short-term advantage within his party.

But if you want to know why I spend so much time criticizing people with prominent platforms trying to convince people the ballot box is not a place for collective political decisions but for life-affirming consumer choices, well, Bregret is why. In the American context, the consumerist arguments from the nominal left for refusing to support Democratic candidates even as the consequences of a Republican victory get increasingly dire generally don’t even really pretend to be tactical; they’re just statements that certain individuals are too good for coalitions that require sharing political space with people who fail to see your unfailing wisdom. This stuff seems harmless until it isn’t. If you want to know when I’m going to stop criticizing pundits who try to encourage this kind of thinking, or the Ralph Naders and (now, apparently) Jill Steins willing to play with fire to stoke their own egos, the answer is “never.” Elections are literally life-and-death matters.

Brexit: Who Voted How? Evidence from Ashcroft

[ 139 ] June 25, 2016 |

borisbarney

Good morning, newly sovereign Britain and welcome to your new leadership team! We had Blair-Brown, then Cameron-Osborne, and now we’ll enjoy Prime Minister Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rubble.

Unlike yesterday’s immediate reaction post, this one is written on 24 hours of sleep uh, written 24 hours later on seven hours of sleep.

First, Scott L has it bang-on. While there are distinct similarities in the motivations of the Leavers and Trump supporters (as well as parts of Sanders support), the the contexts of the two votes are different enough such that the lessons that can be drawn are background, and not worthy of basing a forecast upon. Of course, given my very recent track record of superiority in forecasting, this should probably make people worry.  I did get the Cameron resignation right, but then low hanging fruit . . .

We now have some (patchy) data to assess the two variables I said that we should be attentive to in the run in to the referendum.  Turnout we’re not going to be able to assess yet, and in terms of raw turnout, we have nothing to compare it with really so that might never be properly assessed.  However, the received wisdom of political science and psephology, that undecideds significantly break for the status quo the closer we get to polling day (I estimated 3:1), is not receiving support, and this might be one key to understanding how my 52:48 prediction went ass-backwards (as well as why NCP’s forecast of 53:47 was just a bit off).

 

whendecide

Those data are from an Ashcroft poll (details here, a lot of interesting stuff to pore over) conducted immediately after the referendum, with an N of over 12,000.  Those who decided a week out split 7%-6% for remain, a few days out 8%-7%, on the day 10%-9%. While there’s a marginal advantage for remain in the late deciders, these data suggest it’s only 53%.  Not the 2:1 or 3:1 breaks for the status quo we typically expect.

Demographics did work out as expected. The age gap (which we’ve known about for well over a month) is receiving a lot of attention in the media at present, as though everybody is surprised. Social class worked out as well; the higher up the socio-economic ladder one is, the odds of voting remain increase.  However, where pre-referendum models suggested social class C1 (lower middle class) would just support remain, they ultimately just supported leave (and the professional classes, A & B, did not support remain at the rate initially thought). The age gap is striking.

ashcroft12KNa

The next two figures illustrate the support for each side in party political terms, and how the parties own supporters voted. I have two observations here. First, it was Conservative voters who drove Brexit. 40% of leave support was Tory, 25% UKIP, and 21% Labour. Yes, a nice cross-party distribution, but there were over three Tory/UKIP (in the parlance of Plymouth Labour as we’re now enjoying a Con-Kip coalition in this fair city, “Blukip”) supporters for every one Labour supporter voting leave.  Additionally, this also tests my off-the-cuff suggestion yesterday morning that greater than 35% of Labour supporters voted leave. Ashcroft estimates the figure at 37%. While the traditional Labour heartlands of the northwest and northeast went huge for leave, Labour by and large did not. 58% of Conservatives did.

As the Labour Party itself is going through an uncertain period (charitably stated), one thing I’ve been hearing and reading that does need to stop now is that we didn’t “lose” more of our supporters than originally expected. Indeed, the 37% estimate is in line with expectations. Additionally, it doesn’t mean that all of those supporters we “lost” to leave were the traditional working class base. That figure must include a large degree of Lexiters, as evidenced by the 25% of Green Party supporters who inexplicably voted leave.

And just who are those 4% of UKIP supporters who voted remain?  Statistically, there had to be some, of course, but it’s still hilarious fun to point it out.

proportionsofsupportbyparty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, the money shot. Why did the lies of the leave campaign resonate?  Why was Gove sage to suggest that Britain has had enough of experts experting us to death with facts in their expert ways? Self-reported political attentiveness breaks as we would think.

information

It’s not as stark as I’d have thought, but this is self-reported. There’s a lot more there in the link above worth looking at, of course. Later today, but more likely tomorrow, I’ll have some further thoughts on the result of the result, Article 50, and speculate as to just what the hell Boris Johnson is up to.

Brexit: Some Random Thoughts on WTF and Now What?

[ 458 ] June 24, 2016 |

 

RemainGOTV

So, that didn’t work.  On several levels; one of which is illustrated by the photo above. That’s LGM’s Senior Correspondent on British Politics holding the sign. While British politics suddenly became a hell of a lot more interesting, it’s also significantly less important.

After working GOTV all day yesterday, I skipped the count (where I was due to be a verification agent in Plymouth, but I was too spent to stay up until the declaration which happened around 4AM), and fell asleep by 10PM to Radio 4. When I went to sleep, one of the last tweets I read was that it would take a polling failure “worse” than 2015 or 1992 for leave to win (by whom I do not recall, but it was either a pollster or an academic psephologist). Both Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were reportedly in negative spirits. Farage would later (around 4AM) say on R4 that he didn’t expect to win. I fell asleep easily.

I woke around 2:30AM with R4 still on, to several gloomy, dire texts, and the first authorities had been called.  They were not going as expected for a 50/50 national result as per this guide to expectations as the night progressed. If Sunderland had a leave vote of +6%, we’d be roughly at 50/50 nationally.

Sunderland came in at leave +12%.

I’m somewhat relieved that I didn’t go to the count in Plymouth. While leave was going to win in Plymouth under even the rosiest scenarios, the final result here was Leave 79,997, Remain 53,458 on 71% turnout.  That’s a 59.9% leave vote in Plymouth.

It’s difficult to say what happened. Turnout was a mixed bag; reports from Scotland indicate it was lower than expected, and significantly lower than the independence referendum in 2014. It’s likewise possible that my alternative hypothesis hedge from yesterday morning was more accurate than my working hypothesis: that the increase in registration and the relatively high turnout nationwide (72%, higher than any UK-wide election since 1992) was more due to lower socio-economic classes, relatively electorally inactive, being mobilised by the referendum.

I’m not sure we can call this a polling failure, given the polls were all over the place.  Clearly, however, on-line polls did better than telephone polls, to which I strongly suspect social-desirability was the cause (in Brit-speak, “shy Brexiters”). NCP did not do nearly as well as in the 2015 general election. As for myself, at least I was consistent: shit at the 2015 general and equally shit at the referendum. In my defense, I only missed the final result by 4%. Which is no defense at all.

But then, the bookies got it very wrong, as did the markets.

Some observations:

  • North of the M4, remain under performed. However, in the south, remain over performed.
  • The class dynamic was huge, and bigger than expected.
  • The pound tanked, and is at its lowest level since 1985.  Ronald Reagan was just starting his second term. I was in high school. My trip to New York City in October will be just a bit more expensive.
  • The FTSE futures anticipates a 9% fall in both the FTSE and DAX when the market opens.
  • London retaining its status as a financial capital is in doubt, which is one of the key drivers of the British economy.
  • There was the expected regional divide. While Wales voted leave 53%, Northern Ireland was 56% remain, and Scotland . . . not only was Scotland 63% remain, but remain won every single Scottish local authority.
  • It’s pretty clear that a greater than 35% share of Labour Party membership voted for Brexit.
  • David Cameron gambled in 2013 on a short term electoral tactic. His “luck ran out”.
  • There will be a surge of experts on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

I don’t see how David Cameron can continue as Conservative Party Leader or PM.  Rumors abound right now of course, including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson in a huddle about Cameron’s future. Likewise, there’s now a real possibility of a snap election before Christmas. This would require overturning the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, but that won’t be a problem. That said, the Labour Party are not ready for it.

Martin McGuinness has called for a poll in Northern Ireland to choose between a united Ireland and remaining in the UK.  The SNP see Scotland’s future as “part of the European Union”. It doesn’t take a genius to get the hint. While in 2014 I was solidly opposed to Scottish independence, one of the key arguments for remaining with the United Kingdom was that it presented the easiest and safest route to EU membership. It can be argued that England and Wales did not hold up their end of the bargain.

In terms of why 52% of the population voted to leave the European Union, this dovetails neatly with a class that I teach here on the effects of globalization on domestic politics. Yes, part of it was racism, xenophobia, and nationalism. But I don’t believe that 52% of the British (and Irish) population are those things (however, they are those who speak the loudest).  To quote my friend, Cllr. Bill Stevens (Labour), “It means England (especially the poorer areas) have felt ignored and saying the only reason they voted that way was due to hate, nationalism, racism etc. will make it worse.”

I don’t have the link, but a couple days prior to the referendum, Michael Gove was confronted with the question of market reaction, and he promised (in the glib manner that the Leave campaign responded to any critique or bothersome fact) that we would wake up on Friday morning, and there would be no crash.

Alas, here’s the reaction of the markets:

OHHOLYFUCK

 

52-48 for Remain

[ 99 ] June 23, 2016 |

 

brexit-polls-20160622b

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s a significant improvement from my freaking out a week ago today, and I’ve further downgraded the threat level from cautiously pessimistic to cautiously optimistic. It’s also going well out on a limb with a chainsaw considering the volatility in polling estimates and the lack of a consensus across the various polling houses.

Four new polls were released overnight, and the spread is to be expected of this entire frustrating campaign. The distribution in support for Remain is +8%, +2%, -1% and -2%.  (I’m ignoring the two updated polls by the houses not affiliated with the British Polling Council, SurveyMonkey and Qriously, which likewise vary).  NCP is currently forecasting 53-47 for remain with a 75% probability of a remain result.

The source of my unexpected cautious optimism is twofold, based on both variables I discussed a week ago. First, the share that are undecided is still stubbornly impressive. While two of the new polls do not top line undecideds, the two suggesting a narrow leave win both do: 9% and 16%. NCP estimates an undecided rate at 10%. Some will, of course, not vote. Those who are still undecided this late in the game that do vote will skew significantly for remain.  The final poll tracker on the Scottish referendum in 2014 from the BBC estimated 50% no, 45% yes, 6% undecided, the day before polling. The result was 55.3% no, 44.7% yes.

Incidentally, the NCP poll tracker at the top of this page appears similar in pattern to my recollections of the Scottish referendum, although only two polls suggested independence, whereas numerous polls have recently predicted a Brexit victory.

The second source of this (very) cautious optimism is the turnout. Voter registration hit a new record high for the referendum. Ordinarily this is to be expected with each passing year; however as I’ve written elsewhere, roughly 18 months ago the system of voter registration changed in a manner that would inordinately hit the younger cohorts.  Indeed, I saw evidence a couple days ago that suggests a significant increase in self-reported probability of voting amongst the 18-29 year old cohort in the past two to four weeks (this is from memory). Writing this just after 0900 BST, anecdotal evidence, both locally and nationally, is already reporting queues at polling stations.  Recall, the strongest systematic relationship in estimated support for remain is age: the younger are significantly more likely to support remain, the over 55s leave.

One hypothesis, indeed my hypothesis, combines the undecideds with (what might be) higher than expected turnout, the probability for a remain result increases.

For balance, however, while my take on the record registration implies higher than expected levels of the young turning out to vote, I can readily imagine an alternative explanation. A strong runner-up in the various estimated systematic relationships in support for one side or the other in this referendum is social class. The British have a measure for this: A, B, C1, C2, D, E.  C1 and above are significantly for remain, C2 and below for leave. Of course, a turnout relationship also exists here: higher socio-economic groups are significantly more likely to vote. Thus, the increased registration could be a function of new registrants from the lower echelons of this scale mobilised to vote in order to finally “take back control”.

So there’s the hedge. That said, I’m sticking to my prediction above, and warily eyeing this chainsaw I’ve taken with me out on this uncomfortable limb . . .

EDIT: How could I forget the bookies?  Here’s one, 76% for remain, and a tracker.

Brexit: A Disorganised Parting Shot for Remain

[ 112 ] June 23, 2016 |

 

rival-farage

I’ve been sitting on this article in Foreign Policy for a few days. It is one of the better articulations in defense of continued UK membership of the European Union that I’ve seen. It makes a lot of the points I want to make, and it makes them better.  Better written, at any rate, but I imagine that’s what comes with the luxury of time. It does hit on one of the truly fantastic aspects of the campaign just concluded:

Just as they reject historical context, lest it disturb the fantasy of their project, Brexiteers reject and ignore the problem of context in the policy debate. No complexity from the real world is allowed to compromise their unsullied imagined future.

Brexit has always been a fantasy, forwarding a purely emotional argument reliant on dodgy figures (at best; outright lies are not unknown). For every objection, they had an answer, regardless of how fanciful.  That £350 million per week we ship to Brussels?  It will go to the NHS instead.  Of course, the £350M figure was significantly exaggerated, and the leading lights of the Leave campaign have a long, proud history of wanting to degrade the Health Service or privatise it entirely. Cornwall receives a massive pile of EU cash (so too does Devon; less so than Cornwall, but one of the newer buildings on my campus was funded in part with a generous dollop of EU money) as its one of the poorer regions of the UK. Under the old EU rules, any region at less than 75% of the median income (EU-wide) was eligible for structural investment funding. Considering some of the competitors in the EU, it’s not a great sign to end up on this list. Cornwall, and parts of western Wales, did. Yet, all this cash has not prevented Cornwall from likely voting exit today. When Leave was campaigning down in Cornwall a week or so ago, they committed to maintaining this funding. Indeed, they’ve made this promise formally to all interest groups receiving EU cash.

But seriously, can we really believe that a post-Brexit Conservative government, one significantly to the right of the current well right-of-center lot, will do all these things? They’ve never been interested in ensuring adequate NHS finding before, let alone investing in the Southwest of England (but then, nobody really seems to do that bit much).

Regarding all these pesky EU immigrants . . . damn near every single economic analysis has demonstrated their positive effect on the British economy (the link is representative). Post-Brexit, while the future of these EU citizens is uncertain, equally uncertain are all the British citizens living elsewhere in the EU. While the estimates are all over the place, up to 750,000 Brits live in Spain according to the BBC. They tend to be older, retired, on pensions (in Spain) which makes sense. You’ve retired, and you’re done with the grey drizzle that typifies the British summer, so you retire to Spain, where they have this thing called the sun. EU citizens living and working in the UK tend to skew significantly younger and healthier. Go ahead, fire up your econometric models, and swap one group for the other, and grimly observe the projections.

The crushing reality of the situation is this dilemma that Brexiters face:

Having been trounced on questions of economics, the Leave campaign has, unsurprisingly, stopped talking about the economy, and instead has relentlessly pushed the immigration argument, and pushed it well beyond the truth (the Leave campaign’s website tells us, for instance, that Turkey will join the EU, which is highly unlikely). But even this supposed trump card is flawed. First, there is the problem already discussed: Being in the single market means accepting high levels of free movement, just as Norway and Switzerland have. End of argument — at least in the real world.

Of course, if the UK remains in the single market, the UK must accept most if not all of the associated rules and pay for the privilege, without membership of the Council of Ministers or of the European Parliament. Ironically, leaving the EU yet remaining in the market is pretty much the opposite of “taking back control” over anything. Yet leave the single market, you invite economic chaos and uncertainty.

I need to wrap this up and go help out with GOTV for Remain as the polls are already open.  Prior to leaving the house for the day, I will post on current polling numbers.

That said, the following is a counter-point to the Foreign Policy article linked at the top, originally a response on my fb page when I posted the article. It’s typical of the genre, and is quoted with the public permission of the author.

haha, Foreign Policy always knows what’s best(not). For instance their position on Syria is out of touch with reality and this Kafkaesque notion that some how a UK that is fully sovereign is some how ‘little’ typifies their ‘journalistic’ style. I know, maybe if the ‘leave’ campaign is ‘little England’ then maybe the ‘remain’ crowd should be categorized as the ‘no England’ group. I fail to see how English culture will endure in the long run in the face a watered down national image and unlimited immigration from the third world….huh, maybe that’s why there is a referendum in the first place. People across the Soviet Union knew there would be and economic price to pay with the dissolution of the USSR, but they did it anyway. Perhaps sovereignty and self determination are worth more than what ever threats the ‘no Englanders’ put forwards. It’s amazing to watch the elite circle the wagons…

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