Today is the day of Britain's EU referendum and since the polls opened, the odds on "Brexit" have skyrocketed and the economy has started reacting as though the UK will stay in the EU.

None of the counting will begin until 10pm tonight and as far as i know there are no exit polls. Does anyone know how people can be gauging the results so confidently before counting even begins?

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    Exit polls, maybe? Jun 23, 2016 at 10:53
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    There are no exit polls, in fact publishing anything before 10pm tonight about how people have voted is not allowed by law
    – teebagz
    Jun 23, 2016 at 13:08
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    Good point, please consider adding this to the question as this may be something not obviously assumed. Jun 23, 2016 at 13:25
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    This sounds as if the "remain" group is trying to convince the "leave" group to stay home or "vote with the winner" The U.S. press has been doing this in the presidential race. In fact, they pulled this trick to get Hilliary Clinton to win the California primary. Jun 23, 2016 at 17:13
  • These were just guesses by the markets (financial and betting). And as we now know (with perfect hindsight), these guesses were wrong.
    – user2212
    Jun 27, 2016 at 1:54

5 Answers 5


The Constitutional Unit at University College London has written a number of relevant blog posts recently, the latest being :https://constitution-unit.com/2016/06/23/final-eu-referendum-forecast-remain-predicted-to-win-52-48/

Prof John Curtice has created a pop-up site which covers polling issues for this referendum: http://whatukthinks.org/eu/are-perceptions-of-risk-now-helping-remain/

The exit poll discussion has some useful notes here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-exit-poll-who-has-won-remain-leave-brexit-live-updates-a7094886.html


It's all speculation as no one really knows.

During the (UK) 2015 general election the polls predicted a hung parliament. It turned out to be a majority win for the conservative party. Directly afterwards the polling organisations began to analyse why the prediction had been so wrong*.

Have a look at this article : New research suggests why general election polls were so inaccurate - Guardian

The thing they got so wrong was a 'randomness' of the samples they selected. So, after this was scaled up to the whole population the results were skewed.

I feel that opinion polls can also be used to give the false impression that one side or the other is winning thus boosting their campaign.

The only thing we can do is wait for 08.00 BST for the definative result . . .

*Note - Most of the polling organisations got it wrong, not just one or two.


After the event it has now been shown that 66% of opinion polls got it wrong:

How the pollsters got it wrong on the EU referendum

Of 168 polls carried out since the EU referendum wording was decided last September, fewer than a third (55 in all) predicted a leave vote.

The actual result on the night came in at 51.9% leave, 48.1% remain. Just 16 of 168 individual polls predicted a 52:48 split in favour of leave.

Polls did give a sense of the swing to leave in the first weeks of June, but edged back to favour remain in the final days before the vote. Just two of six polls released the day before the referendum – those carried out TNS and Opinium – gave leave the edge.

  • Those are the exact reasons i tend to look at the bookies to gauge how it will go, because polls may be biased and are often incorrect, but the bookies have to get it as accurate as they can because money is on the line. Saying that the bookies may just be hedging their bets, if all the money so for is on 'Remain' then they might just be putting the odds up on 'Leave' to cut any potential losses.
    – teebagz
    Jun 23, 2016 at 13:13
  • And i guess the same concept applies to the forex market too, it probably made sense to sell GBP a month ago and buy some of it back today. So perhaps the activity at the bookies and in the economy is not due to insider knowledge but just standards trading patterns.
    – teebagz
    Jun 23, 2016 at 13:16

Polling has essentially been tied on whether or not Britain will stay with the EU. However, in all polls there are a non-trivial number of undecided voters. Historically, undecided voters tend to vote for the status-quo, making a Brexit unlikely (but still a possibility).

Following that sort of reasoning leads to people having at least some sense of what the results will be like. However, I don't think that the outcome is certain, and people who do claim to be very very confidant probably should not be.


This was mainly based on privately conducted measuring (e.g. exit polls, and other ways to sense the poll, such as turnout measures, where high turnout was thought to favor remain). Such polls would be undertaken largely for the hedge funds looking to profit from their privetly collected information (... while no exit polls can be 'published' before the results that doesn't stop people conducting their own, and trading on the results).

Any trading by hedge funds, will then start to sway the markets and betting odds, so even if the don't publish their expectations, you can start to see which way their polls were predicting. Sterling rose a bit after the polls closed, and betting reached about 88% likelihood of remain on Bet Fair. This in-line with Nigel Farage indicating towards the start of the evening that he thought Remain had won.

Obviously, these indications can be wrong: the proxies such as 'high turnout', thought to favor remain, evidently didn't play the way people were expecting.

In addition, it's likely that a lot of the evidently 'over-confidence' in the remain side comes from people reacting to each other's confidence: as the betting market rose, and Sterling rose, it gives confidence to the remain side that they had won. ... i nearly put a few thousand dollars on remain thinking at the peak point, thinking that given all the indicators, it was a certainty. Behavior like that pushes it up further, and encourages more to 'think' it must be remain.


Thanks for everyone's answers regarding polls and their accuracy but i now believe the real answer to my question is that they (the bookies, forex traders) WERE NOT gauging the result at all, they were not gradually becoming more confident of one outcome as they day wore on, they were merely hedging their bets in accordance with where the money had already been placed.

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