I, as some of you who read me often know, am a staunch defender of the polling industry. Anytime someone pips in with “Yeah, but they got this or that election wrong”, I am keen to point out how amazingly close pollsters come to getting the results of most contests correct. As a good for instance, how YouGov called the hung parliament in the 2017 general election when that was on no one’s radar. Had they got that one wrong and we’d ended up with a Tory majority, it could have cost the company their reputation – good on them for making such a ballsy prediction that turned out to be bang on.
Having got all of that out of the way, I would be weary of polling around the EU elections in the UK. Not because I don’t think the pollsters are using the right methodology or anything like that – simply, they are almost impossible elections to poll accurately. These elections weren’t even going to happen until a few weeks ago – and they still might not happen even now. How people intend to vote, if they do end up happening on May 23rd, will be very, very fluid, right up until polling day itself. Also, turnout will be important in a way that is much more of a factor than pretty much any other elections that ever take place.
Will the forces that got a million people onto the streets of London, and six million to sign a revoke Article 50 petition, manage to get an unprecedented amount of pro-Europeans to the polls? The EU elections traditionally suffer from poor turnout, so it would take comparatively few voters to change the dynamic of them completely. Will pro-Brexit voters really flock to the polls to vote for the Brexit Party? Or will they stay home in protest? Will the pro-Brexit vote be split across UKIP and Farage’s outfit in a way that hurts them both? Finally, will Remainer lefties vote Labour even though they advocate hard Brexit? Will the Change UK/Lib Dem/Green thing split the Remain vote fatally?
All of these things are just impossible to predict. No result would actually surprise me. If the Brexit Party ended up the runaway winners; if Labour and the Conservatives did surprisingly well, with voters actually sticking to the main two when push came to shove; the Lib Dems, Change and the Greens all basking in a wave of young pro-EU votes. None of these things would shock me. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m so looking forward to them.