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23 June 2016

Ten things to watch out for on EU referendum polling day

Gilts, pencils, and dogs.

By Philip Cowley

The ten things to watch out for today, while there are the reporting restrictions.

1. Turnout rumoured to be very low. Or very high. Often simultaneously. The word “brisk” will be used a lot. Or “slow”.

2. Pencils! Watch for people proclaiming: “I refused to use a pencil”. A full 28 per cent of people think that the referendum will be rigged, rising to 64% of UKIP voters, and rubbing out Xs is obviously the easiest way to do this.

3. Photos of dogs at polling stations on twitter, #dogsatpollingstations. Ahhhhhh.

4. Problems at polling stations. This one is guaranteed. Either folk turning up and not being on the electoral roll, or overly keen activists outside (“harassment”) or late queues caused by a “last-minute rush” (which is always used as evidence for #1, even though it is really just evidence that lots of us do things at the last minute). Probably all three. Please note: these problems, and the inability of the government to run a vote smoothly, does in no way invalidate beliefs about a fiendishly clever conspiracy to fix the result.

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5. Theories about the effect of the weather on turnout, lacking any evidence whatsoever. 

6. Everyone suddenly becoming an expert on share price movements and linking these to secret polls that they have heard are circulating in the City. Ditto sterling. Plus, people having to google gilts.

7. People taking photos in polling stations and posting them online. Idiots.

8. “Is there going to be an exit poll?” 

9. “Why is there no exit poll?” 15 per cent of people think this is so the vote can be fixed without anyone knowing, rather than the methodological problems involved.

10. “No, that’s not an exit poll”.

Philip Cowley is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London; his latest book, More Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box is out in September, containing a chapter on the impact that the weather has on turnout.