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Dramatic rise in number of bets placed pushes possibility of EU leave vote higher

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Professor David Bell
Professor David Bell

With a week to go until the polls open for the EU Referendum, the Bell Ballot Predictor, which successfully predicted the outcome of the Scottish Referendum in 2014, has recorded a sharp rise in bets in recent days in favour of a leave vote.

Developed by Professor of Economics David Bell, of the University of Stirling Management School, the predictor tracks bookmakers’ odds - shown to be more accurate than opinion polls – to predict the election outcomes.

Currently tracking the EU Referendum, the predictor shows a 40 percent chance of the UK voting to leave Europe, an increase of 10 percent in the last five days.

Professor Bell said: “I used the predictor for the 2014 Scottish Referendum and it forecast the outcome would be a small majority vote to remain in the UK, based on tracking betting odds.

“The mood of the nation, as seen through the prism of the bookies, has taken a sharp turn in recent days. There have been a number of events since the weekend that may have influenced this dramatic increase including an increase in negative media coverage for the Remain camp. Added to a general perceived lack of co-ordination for their overall campaign has allowed the more cohesive Leave voice to be heard louder, and their consistency of messaging is apparent in the media.

“The financial markets have also taken a turn this week, reacting to opinion polls which has resulted in a drop in the value of the pound, in turn creating more uncertainty. We’ve also seen an injection of £2.5 billion into the City by the Bank of England to reassure jittery investors.

“The Euro football tournament may be a factor. With betting apps in their pockets, armchair pundits could be putting on a Brexit bet along with their Euro 16 predictions.

“The Sun coming out in support of Brexit will have had an impact, but the increase in the Leave vote started well before it took its stance, so in the event of a leave vote this time it won’t be a case of ‘the Sun wot won it’.”

Explaining why he developed the Bell Ballot Predictor Professor Bell said: "Opinion polls have become discredited since failing to predict the winner of last year's UK general election. They are struggling to find a reliable method of drawing a representative sample of voters, whereas betting data is collecting more frequently and consistently, and is based on what punters predict will happen rather than on how, and if, people will vote.”

Hosted on media channel The Conversation, the predictor - which shows the peaks and troughs of BREXIT betting from May 2015 - will be updated each day at midday in the run up to the EU Referendum on June 23, 2016 and is also available at

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Background information

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Professor Bell has written an opinion editorial for The Conversation which can be viewed, along with the Bell Ballot Predictor here.

Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling Management School since 1990, Professor Bell is an expert in UK public finances and has made significant contributions to the devolved parliaments.

He was Budget Adviser to the Finance Committee at the Scottish Parliament from 2007 to 2013 and has also made appearances and contributions to the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive.

In July 2015, he was appointed as the specialist advisor to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. 

He has also undertaken leading research into youth unemployment and the labour market in Scotland, across the UK and Europe.

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