Recent polls are overall veering towards but not decisively towards a remain win in the referendum. It is important that those wanting leave the EU should not get downhearted. There are still the TV debates to come which will expose the often hypocritical and always vacuous positions those advocating a vote to remain will of necessity have to put forward because they have no hard facts to support their position and can offer only a catalogue of ever more wondrously improbable disasters they claim will happen if Brexit occurs, everything from the collapse of the world economy to World War III The only things they have not predicted are a giant meteorite hitting Earth and wiping out the human race or, to entice the religious inclined vote, the coming of the end of days.
There are other signs which should hearten the leave camp. There appears little doubt that those who intend to vote to leave will on average be more likely to turn out to vote than those who want to remain.. This is partly because older voters favour Brexit more than younger voters and older voters are much more likely to turn out and actually vote. But there is also the question of what people are voting for. Leaving to become masters in our own house is a positive message. There is nothing positive about the remain side’s blandishments. A positive message is always likely to energise people to act than a negative one. Moreover, what the remain side are saying directly or by implication is that at best they have no confidence in their own country and at worst they want Britain to be in the EU to ensure that it is emasculated as a nation state because they disapprove of nation states. Such a stance will make even those tending towards voting to remain to perhaps either not vote or to switch to voting leave.
What should we make of the polls?
What should we make of the polls? Leaving aside the question of how accurate they are, it is interesting that the polls which are showing strongest for a vote to remain are the telephone polls. Those conducted online tend to produce a close result, often half and half on either side. Some have the Leave side ahead. On the face of things this is rather odd because traditional polling wisdom has it that online polls will tend to favour younger people for the obvious reason that the young are much more likely be comfortable living their lives online than older people. Even if online polls are chosen to represent a balanced sample including age composition the fact that older people are generally not so computer savvy means that any sample used with older people is unlikely to represent older generally whereas the part of the polling audience which is young can be made to represent the younger part of the population because almost all of the young use digital technology without thinking.
It is likely that the older people who contribute to online polls are richer and better educated on average than the old as a group. But that brings its own problem for the remain side because another article of faith amongst pollsters is that the better educated and richer you are the more likely you are to vote to remain in the EU. Moreover, if the samples are properly selected for both online and phone polls why should there be such a difference? Frankly, I have my doubts about samples being properly selected because there are severe practical problems when it comes to identifying the people who will make a representative sample. Polling companies also weight their results which must at the least introduce an element of subjectivity. Then there is also the panel effect where pollsters use panels made up of people they have vetted and decided are panel material. Pollsters admit all these difficulties. You can find the pollster YouGov’s defence of such practices and how they supposedly overcome their difficulties here.
The performance of pollsters in recent years has been underwhelming. It could be that their polling on the referendum is badly wrong. That could be down to the problems detailed in the previous paragraph, but it could also be how human beings respond to different forms of polling. Pollsters have been caught out by the “silent Tory” phenomenon whereby voters are unwilling to say they intend to vote Tory much more often than voters for other parties such as Labour and the LibDems are unwilling to admit they will be voting for those parties. It could be that there are “silent Brexiteer” voters who refuse to admit to wanting to vote to leave the EU, while there are no or very few corresponding “silent remain” voters. This could explain why Internet polls show more Brexit voters than phone or face-to-face polls. If a voter is speaking to a pollster, especially if they are in the physical company of the pollster, the person will feel they are being judged by the person asking the questions. If they think their way of voting is likely to be disapproved of by the questioner because it is not the “right view”, the person being questioned may well feel embarrassed if they say they are supporting a view which goes against what is promoted every day in the mainstream media as the “right view” . The fact that the person asking the questions is also likely to come from the same general class as those who dominate the mainstream media heightens the likelihood of embarrassment on the part of those being questioned.
The “embarrassment factor” is a phenomenon which can be seen in the polling on contentious subjects generally. Take immigration as an example. People are terrified of being labelled as a racist. At the same time they are quite reasonably very anxious about the effects of mass immigration. They try to square the circle of their real beliefs with their fear of being labelled a racist – and it takes precious little for the cry of racist to go up these days – by seizing on reasons to object to mass immigration which they believe have been sanctioned as safe by those with power and influence such as saying that they are not against immigrants but they think that illegal immigrants should be sent home or that the numbers of immigrants should be much reduced because of the pressure on schools, jobs, hospitals and housing . What they dare not say is that they object to immigration full stop because it changes the nature of their society.
There is an element of the fear of being called a racist in Brexit because a main, probably the primary issue for most of those wanting to vote to leave in the referendum is the control of borders. This means that saying you are for Brexit raises in the person’s mind a worry that this will be interpreted as racist at worst and “little Englanderish” at best.
There is a secondary reason why those being interviewed are nervous. The poll they are contributing to will not be just a single question, such as how do you intend to vote in the European referendum? There will be a range of questions which are designed to show things such as propensity to vote or which issues are the most important. Saying immigration control raises the problem of fear of being classified as racist, but there will be other issues which are nothing like as contentious on which the person being polled really does not have a coherent opinion. They will then feel a fear of being thought ignorant or stupid if they cannot explain lucidly why they feel this or that policy is important.
That leaves the question of why online polls show more for Brexit and phone or face-to-face-polls. I suggest this. Answering a poll online is impersonal. There is no sense of being immediately judged by another. The psychology is akin to going into a ballot booth and voting. This results in more honesty about voting to leave.
The referendum is just the beginning of the war
Whatever the result of the referendum that will not be the end of matters. There is a gaping hole in the referendum debate . There has been no commitment by any politician to what exactly they would be asking for from the EU if the vote is to leave and what they would definitely not accept. Should that happen we must do our best ensure that those undertaking the negotiations on Britain’s behalf do not surreptitiously attempt to subvert the vote by stitching Britain back into the EU by negotiating a treaty which obligates Britain to such things as free movement of people between Britain and the EU and a hefty payment each year to the EU (a modern form of Danegeld). A vote to leave must give Britain back her sovereignty utterly and that means Westminster being able to pass any laws it wants and that these will supersede any existing obligations to foreign states and institutions, having absolute control of Britain’s borders, being able to protect strategic British industries and giving preference to British companies where public contracts are offered to private business.
It there is a vote to remain that does not mean the question of Britain leaving is closed for a generation any more than the vote of Scottish independence sealed the matter for twenty years or more. For another referendum to be ruled out for several decades would be both dangerous and profoundly undemocratic.
Imagine that Britain having voted to remain the EU decides to push through legislation to bring about the United States of Europe which many of the most senior Eurocrats and pro-EU politicians have made no bones about wanting, the EU wants Turkey to be given membership, immigration from and via the EU continues to run out of hand or the EU adopts regulations for financial services which gravely damage the City of London. Are we to honestly say that no future referendum cannot be held?
Of course on some issues such as the admission of new members Britain still has a veto but can we be certain that it would used to stop Turkey joining? David Cameron has made it all too clear that he supports Turkey’s accession and the ongoing immigrant crisis in the Middle East has already wrung the considerable concession of visa-free travel in the Schengen Area from the EU without the Cameron government offering any complaint. Instead all that Cameron does is bleat that Britain still has border controls which allow Britain to refuse entry to and deport those from outside the EU and the European Economic Area. However, this is the same government which has been reducing Britain’s border force and has deported by force very few people.
4 Cases where treaty or Article 48(6) decision attracts a referendum
(4)A treaty or Article 48(6) decision does not fall within this section merely because it involves one or more of the following—
(a)the codification of practice under TEU or TFEU in relation to the previous exercise of an existing competence;
(b)the making of any provision that applies only to member States other than the United Kingdom;
(c)in the case of a treaty, the accession of a new member State.
In practice it would be up to the government of the day to decide whether a referendum should be held. The circumstances where the Act requires a referendum are to do with changes to the powers and duties of EU members. The simple accession of a new member does not fall under those heads. Nor does the Act provide for a referendum where there is no change to existing EU treaties or massive changes are made without a Treaty being involved, for example, Britain has had no referendum on Turkey being given visa free movement within the Schengen Area. Make sure you vote
Regardless of what the Polls say make sure you vote The bigger the victory for the OUT side the less the Europhiles will be able to do to subvert what happens after the vote. If the vote is to stay the closer it is the less traction it gives the -Europhiles . Either way, the vote on the 23 June is merely the first battle in a war, not the end of the war.