Sputnik caught up with the UK's favorite psephologist — it just wouldn't be an election without him — Professor John Curtice, and asked him to guide us through some of the more confusing elements of the UK's EU referendum.
Brits voted to leave the EU by a narrow 1.9% margin, but many will have been surprised at that, because all the polling seemed to point to a Remain victory as the voting closed. High profile Leave campaigners like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson had practically conceded the referendum before counting had even gotten under way. But as the night wore on, it became ever clearer that the pollsters had called it wrong.
Professor Curtice told Sputnik that whilst polling had consistently favored the Remain campaign, it had been so close throughout as to make any sort of effective prediction possible:
"Anyone who was reading the polls sensibly would have said that while maybe the Remain side were slightly the favorites — certainly nobody could rule out the possibility of the UK voting to leave which is of course exactly what happened."
England and Wales both voted in the majority to leave the EU — with less than 2% between them — but Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to Remain. Northern Ireland voted 55.7% Remain, whilst Scotland voted a massive 62%. But how predictable were those stark differences between various parts of the UK?
"In Scotland, being part of the European Union is regarded as one of the ways in which independence could be achieved. Therefore for Scotland, unlike England and Wales, being in the European Union is one way of realizing the nationalist aspiration rather than regarded as a potential constraint on sovereignty in the way that many people in England regarded it," Professor Curtice told Sputnik.
Referencing the high Remain vote in Northern Ireland, Professor Curtice said:
"The fact that there would be a land border between an EU and a non-EU country — what would the implications of that for the North be? Together with the fact that, for Nationalists at least, the European Union provides a measure of all-Ireland governance, again it helps to meet the nationalist aspirations."
Early on in the counting process — when the Leave side thought they'd lost — many were arguing that a surge in younger voters might have swung the vote for Remain. But as Professor Curtice points out, it was actually the opposite which turned out to be true:
"What I think we will discover in the end is that undoubtedly young people were less likely to turn out and vote. If you look at the places where turnout was rather lower, there's some reason to substantiate that position. Now of course, it was true that we did end up with a 72% turnout which was the highest turnout for a UK-wide vote for over 20 years, and so I think that the truth is that Remain were always going to struggle to get as many younger voters to the polls as older voters and I suspect, at the end of the day, that was one of the factors."