With some polls showing the European Union (EU) referendum on a knife edge, the higher turnout expected from older voters could help win the day for Brexit.
Asked simply whether they think Britain should Leave or Remain, respondents to an ORB opinion poll produced a straight 50-50 split. However, when those same findings were statistically weighted to account for people’s likelihood to vote, that result changed to two per cent victory for Brexit — at 51 per cent, over 49 per cent for remaining.
Allies of David Cameron reportedly fear “differential turnout” could lead to a Brexit victory on 23 June, according to The Independent.
ORB believes 65 per cent of people will definitely vote in June, but that overall figure masks big variations between demographic groups.
At 69 per cent, male voters are more likely to say they will definitely vote than female ones (for whom the figure is 62 per cent). In addition, men are also more hostile towards the EU, with only 45 per cent wanting Britain to remain in compared to 55 per cent of women.
Furthermore, those aged 65 and over are the group most likely to turn up to vote, and the group most likely to vote to leave. Around 80 per cent say they will definitely vote, and 60 per cent want to leave.
With these two groups – men and the aged – both more determined and more Euroskeptic, the Remain campaign’s strategists are thought to be worried.
By way of contrast, only 53 per cent of 25-34 year-olds and 54 per cent of 18-24 year-olds will definitely vote, and both groups are substantially more pro-EU than their elders.
The problem for Remain campaigners is compounded by a widespread complacency. Regardless of polling results, the Remainers are convinced they will win. Only 17 per cent of those polled think the country will actually vote to quit the EU, 51 per cent expect a Remain victory.
It is thought those figures may breed complacency among “soft” supporters of EU membership, leading them not to bother voting at all.
ORB’s online survey of 2,000 people, conducted between last Wednesday and Friday, did offer another crumb of comfort for the Remain side. In a sign that the ‘Project Fear’ tactics on the economy may be affecting wavering voters, 46 per cent agreed that “the risks of leaving the EU outweigh the benefits of Brexit,” and only 35 per cent disagreed.