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I saw mentions that nobody could report on the preliminary outcome of the Brexit vote, because it was illegal to report on any numbers before voting concluded.

Is this rule/law specific to the Brexit referendum, or does it also apply to other UK elections?

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This applies to all UK elections.

The Representation of the People Act 2002 inserted a section 66A into the initial 1983 of the same name and this read as follows. It is a criminal offence ‘to publish, before a poll is closed, any statement about the way in which voters have voted in that election, where this statement is, or might reasonably be taken to be, based on information given by voters after they voted.’

Source: http://www.inbrief.co.uk/media-law/publication-of-exit-polls-law/

It is designed to prevent people not bothering to turn out to vote at the end because they know the way it will go. It does not stop people conducting their own private poll, and trying to profit on the knowledge (e.g betting on it), just on publishing the result in advance.

In the case of the EU referendum there was not an official exit poll conducted anyway (largely because the 'swing' methodology used in general elections can't be done for one off events, making an exit poll harder to do). The 'shock' that occurred was thus likely due to the private polls and indicators being out of sync with what actually happened.

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  • What is the source for the very first sentence, please?
    – user4012
    Jun 25, 2016 at 12:12
  • @user4012 - added source
    – kyrenia
    Jun 25, 2016 at 19:32
  • I am not sure if you have made it clear to the OP that this only applies to exit polls. Normal opinion polls can still be published on the day of the election. It is just that it is illegal to report soundings taken from people who have just voted at polling stations, until they have closed. It used to be that in France that no opinion polls were allowed to be published during, I think it was 30 days, prior to an election. But I don't know if that is still the case or not.
    – WS2
    Oct 12, 2016 at 20:58

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