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Thursday 5 May 2011

The Vote And The Turnout

There were going to be two votes cast here in Crewe: one for the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum, and one for the local election. However, with the recent passing of incumbent Lib Dem Councillor Betty Howell, the latter has been deferred, and that local poll will happen later.

So it’s been referendum voting only today. How did that look? On a personal sample of one, very, very quiet indeed: I had the polling station to myself just after 1030 today, with five officials otherwise in thumb twiddling mode. As I left, one other voter arrived to take my place.

That contrasts with last year’s General Election, the 2008 by-election, and, come to think of it, every local poll as well. All have been busier. The only other quiet one I can recall since arriving in Crewe was the 2005 General Election, and I voted late in the evening en route from the station, after travelling from Bristol.

But, so what? Well, there is one substantial electorate that has only the referendum in which to vote, and that electorate is the one in London, potentially several millions of it. If the turnout is low there, it will depend on which side gets its vote out. The influence of the capital’s electorate will be correspondingly less with a low turnout.

Other parts of the UK are variously motivated by having a local poll, or one for a devolved Government or Assembly, and this may mean that the referendum result will be more strongly influenced by voters in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The question that then begs itself is this: how much of the opinion polling was done in those parts of the UK? Because if too much emphasis was placed on canvassing views in the capital, the pollsters could have made a serious mistake. Maybe not enough to call the result wrong, but that result could be closer than we have been led to believe.

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