David Cameron has spoken of his “fear” that Britain will vote to break with Brussels because of a low turnout. The Prime Minister’s sleep patterns will not have been helped then by Sunday’s Observer poll that put the Leave campaign ahead by 4 points. The poll also found that the group most supportive of remaining part of the EU are people in the 18-34 age group. Remain campaigns will say they have the future on their side. But as Freddie Sayers, YouGov’s editor-in-chief, says “the single most important driver of turnout is age.” And over 65s are more both more likely to be eurosceptic and more likely to vote. The Observer poll found 52 per cent of younger people were certain to vote, compared to 81 per cent of older voters. So Cameron now depends on the people least likely to have voted for his Conservative government to keep him in Downing Street. But crudely partisan attempts to make it more difficult for Labour and other left-wing parties to mobilise their supporters against the Conservatives may now come back to haunt him.
The Government’s rush to implement Individual Electoral Registration (IER) – against expert advice to phase-in the policy over a longer period – has knocked more than 800,000 people off the electoral register over the last year. The House of Commons Library warns: “Local authorities with high concentration of students appear to have been more affected by IER as their registers decreased more significantly than the average.” Fewer young, poor and left orientated voters on the electoral register is likely to help the Conservatives in local and national elections on May 5, as well as skewing the soon-to-be redrawn boundaries of parliamentary constituencies to their advantage.
In the context of the European referendum though, that is a substantial number of likely Remain votes lost. The changes to electoral registration also puts Remain at a geographic disadvantage. Five of the ten top Europhile locations in Britain are London boroughs, according to YouGov. But London has lost the highest number of voters, with 394,000 falling of the register since the 2012 Mayoral election. In Hackney alone, which was the eighth most pro-EU place in of Britain, there has been a 6 per cent slump in voter registration. A double victory for Conservative Mayoral candidate and Brexiteer, Zac Goldsmith, but more bad news for Remain.