Voters in the United Kingdom finally get their say on “Brexit” Thursday, and three late polls show that British voters may choose to stay part of the European Union after all. But the results could be very close and may not be known for several days.
UPDATE 6/23 8:45 PM EDT: Early polling results indicate that British voters have chosen to remain in the European Union, rejecting the “Brexit” campaign backed by the country’s right wing that would have seen the United Kingdom drop out if the 28-nation political and economic alliance.
With polls closing at 10 p.m. British Summer Time — 5 p.m. United States Eastern Time, 2 p.m. Pacific — snap polling showed a clear lead for the “Remain” option that would keep Britain in the EU.
An online poll by YouGov found a 52 percent to 48 percent edge for “Remain,” while an Ipsos. MORI poll showed a larger lead for keeping the country in the European Union, 54-46.
An Ipsos/MORI poll released earlier that did not include responses taken Thursday showed a 52-48 lead for “Remain.”
“It’s been an extraordinary referendum campaign, turnout looks to be exceptionally high and looks like Remain will edge it,” said Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s far right United Kingdom Independence Party, a leading force behind the pro-Brexit movement.
While the majority of the British political “establishment,” including Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labor Party, favor remaining in the EU, a widespread anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain has largely driven the move to withdraw the U.K. from the 28-country political and economic unit that covers more than 7 percent of the global population.
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) June 23, 2016
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, the leader of the far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), have been among the prominent political figures pushing for Brexit — the British exit from the EU.
Polls do not close in the U.K. until 10 p.m. British Summer Time — which is 5 p.m. United States Eastern Daylight Time, 2 p.m. Pacific — but two significant polls released on Thursday as voting began on the Brexit referendum show that British voters may be rejecting the calls of Johnson, Farage, and others, albeit just barely.
The winner of the Brexit referendum will be decided by a simple majority. Whichever answer — “Remain” or “Leave” — receives more than 50 percent will be declared victorious.
— Slate (@Slate) June 23, 2016
For up-to-the-minute live Brexit coverage, view the Sky News live stream direct from the U.K. in the video below.
An Ipsos/MORI telephone poll commissioned by the Evening Standard newspaper showed British voters favoring the “Remain” option, keeping the U.K. part of the European Union, by a slim margin of 52 percent to 42.
According to the Standard, telephone interviews for the poll, which covered 1,592 adults, were conducted up to 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, “making it the most up-to-date poll of the campaign.”
But the poll also comes with a significant red flag. A full 12 percent of those surveyed said they could still change their minds on the Brexit vote before heading to the voting booth Thursday.
Another possibly huge caveat came in the form of Mother Nature Thursday in the U.K., where torrential rains in London could keep voters away from polling places.
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A second Brexit poll made public on Thursday, by the research group Populus, showed a more definitive victory for the “Remain” forces, rejecting Brexit by 55 percent to 45.
The Populus poll was conducted online, generally believed to be a less accurate method of polling than direct telephone interviews. However, until the Populus poll, most online surveys had shown a steady lead for the pro-Brexit “Leave” option, so the new poll could either show a significant trend in public opinion in the United Kingdom or simply show a large error.
Why there’s no exit poll after the Brexit vote https://t.co/cV361LRqz9
— Quartz (@qz) June 23, 2016
Polling, in general, has turned out to be a difficult proposition in British elections. Most pollsters missed the mark when predicting the outcome of the latest general elections in Britain. According to an analysis in the New York Times, Brexit “is generally considered to be an even more complex forecasting exercise. So any findings should be taken with caution.”
According to the Times report, British polling expert Peter Kellner compiled averages of Brexit polling results and found that “Remain” held a larger lead in telephone polls than in online surveys.
Telephone polls put the “Remain” anti-Brexit option at 53 percent to 47 for the pro-Brexit “Leave,” in Kellner’s average. Online polls had “Remain” out in front by a nail-biting 51-49.
A third poll on Thursday, conducted by ComRes for the conservative-leaning Daily Mail newspaper, also gave a lead to “Remain” by a 48-42 margin. But 11 percent of respondents in the Daily Mail poll said they were still undecided on the Brexit question, even at the last minute.
[Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images]