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23 March 2016updated 02 Sep 2021 4:40pm

Will Glastonbury decide the outcome of the EU referendum?

The vote falls on the Thursday of the music festival, which 200,000 people attend.

By Anoosh Chakelian

On Thursday 23 June in the UK, you will be doing one of two things. Staggering through a field in Somerset, head pounding from too much booze and bass, pretending to enjoy yourself. Or walking to a polling station, head pounding from too much Boris and British sovereignty, pretending not to enjoy yourself.

Anyone who will neither be attending Glastonbury festival nor voting in the EU referendum, click away now.

The vote falls on the second day of the festival, when the vast majority of attendees will have arrived. Over 200,000 people go to Glastonbury at the peak of the festival, and pollsters are beginning to analyse how this could possibly affect the EU referendum result.

Although 200,000 people are a drop in the ocean of the 30m people expected to vote in the referendum, there are certain scenarios in which the diary clash could affect the way the vote plays out.

“The only circumstance in which it could have an effect is if it’s incredibly close between Leave and Remain,” says Joe Twyman, YouGov’s Head of Political and Social Research.

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“In order for that to happen, it needs to be really close – I don’t think that’s incredibly likely. But you never know. Even if all 250,000 attendees were voting the same way, it would still have to be within 250,000 to make a difference.”

And would all attendees be voting (or missing out on voting) the same way? The demographic of Glastonbury goers certainly suggests a bias for staying in.

“If you look at the people who go to Glastonbury – and, ok, excuse me of massive stereotyping here – let’s assume that everyone at Glastonbury is white, middle-class, university-educated and under the age of 30. Who’d have thought it?!” laughs Twyman. “We assume that that group is overwhelmingly likely to vote to stay.”

The fear is that, if over 200,000 people who are generally in favour of Britain’s EU membership are absent on the day of the vote, it could dent the Remain vote.

This has even led to a conspiracy theory that the vote was scheduled over the festival on purpose. “Sounds to me like some sort kind of conspiracy. While all them pesky lefty, pro-EU hippies are at Glastonbury, eh lads?” commented one suspicious tweeter.

Of course, this is nonsense. And Raph Malek, Research Lead at the public attitudes surveyor BritainThinks, suggests that Glastonbury goers may not be much use to the Remain campaign anyway:

“We know that educational achievement and age are the two biggest drivers of positions on the EU referendum. If we’re speculating, if it’s younger people who are more likely to be university-educated, most people – or more people – at Glastonbury would be likely to be in favour of Remain than Leave. But we also know that if younger voters are less likely to turn out, then it would make less of a difference anyway.”

Twyman agrees: “You know how in general elections we talk about Worcester Woman and Essex Man and all that sort of thing? I wonder whether ‘Glastonbury Attendee’ will become shorthand for the type of person the Leave campaign doesn’t like, and the type of person the Stay campaign desperately needs to turn out.

“Because Leave know they’re not going to win these people over, the best that they can hope for is that they’re not going to turn up.”

Because of our voting system relying on local authority-based electoral registers, Glastonbury is not allowed to have its own polling station (although reportedly the festival did look into it).

But it has been encouraging its attendees on Twitter and on its website to apply either for a postal or proxy vote. Twyman suggests that this could even help the Remain campaign – people who are less likely to vote receiving extra encouragement could give it a small boost.

However, the chances of the festival clashing with the vote influencing its result are very slim. When the date of the vote was decided, the Electoral Commission did an analysis of lots of factors as part of what it calls its “planning assumptions” – and it didn’t include Glastonbury as a factor.

All the experts I speak to believe it’s highly unlikely unless such a small difference would swing the vote either way. But that’s no reason for Glastonbury goers to abstain. If you’re going to the festival, you can apply to vote by post beforehand here, or you can nominate someone to vote for you by proxy here. Then you can have that breakfast Strongbow on Thursday morning with a clear conscience.

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