A close look at the demographyby Julia Unwin / September 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
Earlier this week, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published one of the first academic analyses on the drivers behind the Brexit vote. The research, written by Matthew Goodwin at the University of Kent and Oliver Heath at the Royal Holloway University, shows how a lack of opportunity across swathes of the country led to Brexit. Groups of voters pushed to the margins of society, living on low incomes, with few qualifications and without the skills required to prosper in the modern economy, were more likely than others to vote “Leave.”
Education levels were a particular dividing line. Other things being equal, support for “Leave” was 30 percentage points higher among those with educational qualifications at or below GCSE level than it was for people with a degree. In a particularly stark finding, over 70 per cent of people with no qualification voted for Brexit, whereas 70 percent of those with a postgraduate degree voted to remain.
There was also a strong link between income and the likelihood of supporting Brexit. 58 per cent of people whose household incomes were below £20,000 per year voted for “Leave,” compared to 35 per cent of those in households earning above £60,000. Job security and type of work also had an impact, with people in low-skilled, precarious and manual jobs more likely to vote “Leave,” as were people who were unemployed.
The importance of geography cannot be overlooked, with the “Leave” vote much higher in areas with high proportions of low skilled jobs and residents. Crucially, the research showed that the gap was being driven by more than just the qualification level of individual voters. In low skilled areas, the proportion of people with A-Levels who voted “Leave” was the same as the proportion of those with GCSEs, whereas in high skilled areas it was similar to the proportion of people with degrees.
Of course, all research into the demographics can do is point towards the larger trends driving the vote. It goes without saying that there were many highly educated, wealthy people in prosperous town and cities who supported Brexit, just as there were people on…