UK EU Referendum – Instagram, Pinterest (and Glastonbury) Will Influence the Outcome!

In the first two posts of this series, I’ve shared some increasingly bizarre facts about the UK’s European Union membership referendum. On June 23rd, the country exercises its democratic right to determine that future against a more somber backdrop, following the shocking politically-motivated murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. The landscape against which voting will take place looks as follows:

  • The BBC’s poll of polls makes it a near dead heat – 45 percent in favor of “Remain”, 44 percent in favor of “Leave”, and a crucial 11 percent no yet knowing!
  • The betting community is more bullish – the best odds on “Remain” are currently 2/7, while punters can get 3/1 on “Leave”. This suggests a ± 75 percent likelihood of the UK staying in Europe.
  • The stock markets are also pricing in a “Remain” decision with a surge in key indices this week as investor confidence strengthens.

What does Return Path’s email data say? And can I use what it’s telling us to make my own bold prediction about the election outcome? Read on to find out!

  1. List Size – Email support for the Stronger In movement remains almost 2X that of Vote Leave.


  1. Overlap – The overlap segment has now shrunk to only 5 percent. Importantly, subscriber engagement from this segment is 13 percent higher in favor of Vote Leave. This may provide a clue into the intentions of the undecided voters.
  2. Deliverability – Over the full campaign, Vote Leave has performed an average 11 percent worse against this metric. More recently, Stronger In has upped its game, achieving parity in the very last week of the campaign.


  1. Read Rates – Similarly, Stronger In has also turned around the read rate deficit. Having averaged 7 percent less than Vote Leave for the full campaign, it has taken a narrow lead in the last week of campaigning.

guy_3One reason for Vote Leave’s better overall performance has been its ability to acquire more primary email addresses from its supporters. These are accounts where individuals read most – or all – of their email every day, and trust between recipient and sender is vital for these high-performance addresses to be provided.

  1. Voter Profiles – Can we learn anything about Stronger In and Vote Leave supporters (and their likely voting intentions) based on other programs they also receive emails from?
  • Stronger In has, by far, the greater social media reach (37 percent of all email traffic vs. 23 percent). Vote Leave’s social habits are more traditional with higher numbers of Facebook and LinkedIn users. Stronger In supporters are more commonly found on younger platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.
  • 10 percent of Vote Leave email traffic comes from media providers such as Sky and BT, while the number is only 2 percent for Stronger In. These companies make money from paid subscriptions. Could this data indicate higher levels of disposable income in the “Leave” faction?
  • Similarly, 35 percent of Vote Leave email traffic comes from Retail, Comparison, and Daily Deals vendors, while the comparative number for Stronger In is only 28 percent.
  • Stronger In supporters are more likely to actively support the causes and issues important to them. 19 percent of their email traffic comes from the likes of, 36degrees, Sumofus, Care2, and Only 15 percent of Vote Leave supporters’ emails come from these senders.

What does this data tell us? It seems to point towards a younger Stronger In demographic, while Vote Leave supporters look like they are a bit older. If so, this may not be good for “Remain” – as I mentioned in my previous post, half of young Londoners (18-24) admit they may not bother voting. Somewhat surreally, this may be because many of them are going to the Glastonbury music festival that takes place this weekend!

One consolation for both sets of supporters is 8 percent of their email traffic comes from travel companies. If they aren’t happy with the outcome, they can always book a trip somewhere else!

My Prediction – I can’t present all these facts and not have an opinion on the outcome, so it’s time to put my head on the block!

As we have seen, Stronger In has built a broader base of support, but Vote Leave has run a smarter campaign, getting more emails delivered and generating greater engagement by making emotional appeals to primary email address owners. Stronger In will also be impacted by less support from undecided voters and lower turnout from young voters.

Once I’ve weighted for all these factors, my prediction is that it’s going to be excruciatingly close. I’m calling it in favor of a “Remain” outcome, by 52 percent to 48 percent. I will insert a weaselly caveat that my calculation includes an error margin of ± 3.5 percent, so it could still end up going either way!

As Sir Richard Branson phrased it so eloquently earlier this week: on Friday morning we will wake up to find out if we are members of Great Britain – or Little Britain!

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