Italians head to the polls on Dec. 4 to vote on a controversial slate of constitutional changes championed by Matteo Renzi. The prime minister has raised the stakes by threatening to resign if the reforms are rejected.
The proposed reforms are bundled together; voters may vote just “yes” or “no” to the entire package. According to the latest official opinion polls, the “no” camp is leading by anywhere from two and ten points. But those polls date back to Nov. 18, the last day when Italian pollsters were officially allowed to publish them.
Italy has strict laws on sharing poll data. A 2000 law, updated in 2010 (link in Italian), forbids the publication of polls within 15 days prior to a vote, ostensibly to avoid influencing citizens. But in the midst of a tense campaign, a little comic relief has popped into this information vacuum: cleverly worded polls that hint at the referendum, but deny having anything to do with it.
For instance, the home page of YouTrend, a leading online publication devoted to trends and polling, prominently features a so-called conclave vote at the Vatican, seemingly scheduled for Dec. 4—the same day as the referendum. The church is apparently very divided on this “divine judgement”, according to the site, which displays a choice between saints: San Simplicio (or “SI”) and San Norberto (or “NO”). San Norberto is in the lead, with 52 to 54 cardinals apparently voting in that direction. (Spoiler: there is no vote happening at the Vatican this Sunday.)
YouTrend has been consistently reporting on this rumored conclave vote for the past two weeks. Asked in an email whether these numbers actually reflect opinion on the Dec. 5 referendum, YouTrend responded only that “publishing [electoral] polls at this time is forbidden by the law.”