8 Jun 2016

EU vote registration extended – desperate measures?

Would the government have bust a gut to extend the deadline on voter registration if it wasn’t to their advantage? Discuss.

There’s certainly a surge of interest in registration (some people might be checking they’re on the register when they are already there). The highest traffic to the registration site ahead of the general election was 74,000. Last night, just before the website crashed, between 9 and 10pm last night, the traffic was 214,000.

On the Leave side you’ll find Tory MPs talking of “banana republic” fixing and worse. The official Vote Leave position is let all who wish to register. Behind the scenes some of them are seething that the government is trying to leave the door open to late registrations because it is convinced they’re dominated by younger voters who are disproportionately on their side.

Whereas 28% of the general population is under 35, the late registration attempts on the government website showed 60% of the latecomers to the democratic process were under 35. It’s a demographic that works well for the Remain camp and there’s been a big push by universities and other institutions to get the young registered.

Both camps will tell you that higher turnout benefits the Remain campaign, lower turnout benefits the Leave camp. “Below 55% and we can win it,” one Leave campaign team member said. “The closer to a general election turnout (61%) the better for us,” the Remain camp say.

Is the extended deadline a sign of panic in the Remain camp?

Top people there admit that there has probably been a shift to Leave over the last 7 to 10 days of 3 to 4%. This graph, they think, helps to explain why¬† – the start of purdah saw the government’s ability to dominate headlines and bulletins diminish and the Leave camp’s migration agenda jump up in prominence.

There’s a strong sense on the Remain side that they need to fight harder, “to raise our game” as one put it and to reach Labour identifiers who still struggle to work out where their party stands. That’s not been helped by the Tories dominating the coverage – see Table 2.1 here.

At the moment some Labour identifiers feel they are being asked to choose between rebel and loyalist factions in the Conservative government. There are people in No. 10 who are convinced that Mr Corbyn has been lying low because he wants Remain to lose and that his team can see plenty of advantages to such a big disruption to the normal order of things. Mr Corbyn insists he’s busy on the campaign trail and he himself insisted last week that his message is getting across.

Past polling evidence suggests that half of people saying “Don’t Know” at a moment this close to vote probably won’t vote. The Remain camp reckons that the other half might break about 2 to 1 in their favour.

They also suspect that women are still under-represented in the “certain to vote” tallies. I’ve mentioned before how men and women generally turn out in roughly equal proportions but women in the referendum polls are saying they are less likely to vote. Remain just don’t believe that will happen and believe it is more a case of men being a bit “know it all” and women less inclined to claim certainty than men.

But there are also pickings to be had within the camps of declared supporters. Remain thinks that nearly 1 in 5 of Vote Leave’s declared supporters in the polls “could change their minds,” and something like 13% of Remain supporters are equally unsure of themselves.

Leave want to keep the focus on immigration. Remain wants to wrestle it back as much as it can onto the economic risks of Brexit. It also hopes to reduce the impact of the suggestion that you can boost public services by cutting immigration. They hope Labour and trade union voices, more trusted by some than Tory voices on the public services, will help here.

As for Remain Tories, they’re terrified of looking like they’re saying higher immigration is the price of economic success but by saying there’s a black hole in the government’s books if you pull up the drawbridge they are nosing towards that argument without embracing it.

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