#BREXIT, a preliminary assessment of our forecasting exercise

The Brits have voted (at least those that did) for BREXIT by, as of this writing with 343 of 383 counted,  51.8%-48.2% almost the reverse of what both I had last seen as well as the latest polls. Two ways ago observing the rate at which the brexit side was recovering from the murder of Jo Cox I was writing that “as of 16:15 hrs on Tuesday afternoon the leave searches caught up by half a percentage point going from 47% to 47.5%. If trend continues they will be at 53% or Thursday morning”. This was simply regressing the  leave searches on each hours passed. When I then saw the first slow down I had thought that it might become 51% or 52% but recovering most of the pre-murder momentum was still possible with only one obstacle in its way: time. When the rate of recovery of the leave searches slowed down in the evening of the 22nd of June and did not move upwards in the early morning of the 23rd I had to call the presumed trend as complete: if your instrument does not pick up measurement variation then you declare the process you are observing for finished. Leave was at 48%.

What explains the difference? Maybe the trend I was seeing early on was indeed still mostly there and there was simply no time to be recorded in search? Maybe the rain damaged the remaineers as it is widely believed? Maybe the pour turnout in Wales? Maybe our tool does not have the resolution it needs for such a close call? or maybe as I was saying elsewhere “I am confident to mostly have identified the referendum relevant searches and I can see that many -but not all- of the top searches are indeed related to voting intent”. With the type of access we have to Google Trends data we will never know.

Whichever the case is, it is worth investigating further as more data becomes available as soon as the dust settles. At this point it is worth remembering that the principle of parliamentary sovereignty implies that referendum results are not legally binding and that action occurs at the discretion of the parliament alone. Consequently a leave vote is not identical with leaving. As I was writing elsewhere voting leave is hence cheap talk and hence the rational thing to do: you can air any and all grievances with the status quo and it is your vote if you have any kind of ax to grind (and most people do). Why wouldn’t you want to do so? The politicians can still sort it out afterwards. These politicians are now going to have to change their and our ways. Pro European forces in the UK, in Brussels and other European capitals must realize that scaremongering is not enough to stir people towards Europe. We saw that more than half of the Britons prefer a highly uncertain path than the certainty of staying, a sad evaluation of the European path. Pro Europeans need to paint a positive picture of staying instead of ugly pictures of leaving and most importantly they need to sculpt it in 3D reality one European citizen at a time.


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  1. Pingback: Brexit polling: What went wrong? - Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

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