The many faces of Brexit

The many faces of Brexit

When was the last time we had a day as momentous as the 24th of June? After the UK stunned the world by becoming the first ever country to leave the European Union, the headlines started rolling in like dominoes. David Cameron resigning. Jeremy Corbyn facing an internal revolt. The SNP seeking a second referendum on Scottish Independence. Sinn Fein arguing for a referendum on the Unification of Ireland. And a financial earthquake rippling across the world, with the pound’s value slumping to below $1.32 against the dollar the day after the Referendum – its lowest rate since 1985.

Amidst the biggest headlines, there are a lot of interesting points to be made about which demographics voted Remain, and which voted Leave. This was a referendum which divided society in many fascinating ways. Let’s have a look at the different divides which sculpted this extraordinary result.

1.       Age

A lot was made of the fact that young people were more likely to vote remain in the lead up to the referendum, and this prediction very much came true. 75% of 18-24 year olds who voted, voted Remain. Many commentators who were on Team Remain are using this to argue that young voters have been screwed over by their parent’s generation against their will. But while young people were overwhelmingly remainers, they didn’t vote in as high numbers as their parent’s generation. An estimated 36% of 18-24s voted in the referendum, compared to a national turnout of 72.2%.

2.       Location

London and Scotland were not just Remainers – they were heavy remainers. And they took Northern Ireland with them too. But that was pretty much it. Wales voted out. The North voted out. The South West voted out. The Midlands voted out. East Anglia voted out. Almost every region voted out. The extent to which the vote was divided regionally makes it unsurprising that so many people have remarked that most of their friends voted the same way as them. These regional differences have made many people in Remain areas very unhappy, with almost 200,000 Londoners signing a petition calling for London to become independent from the UK and rejoin the EU. Astonishing.

3.       Ethnicity

Ethnic minorities tended to vote remain, as did those who weren’t born in the UK. Given that there was no exit poll, we do not know exactly how strong this trend was, but no one will be surprised that the BME community were not overawed by the Leave Campaign. The fact that many immigrants are from BME backgrounds, and that the Leave Campaign had such vitriolic rhetoric about immigration will certainly not have helped them win over the BME community. The fact that so many BME people live in London also makes the correlation between ethnic minorities and remain voters unsurprising.

4.       Class

Middle class voters were more likely to vote Remain, and working class voters were more likely to vote Leave. This is arguably the most significant of all of the voting trends which we witnessed in this referendum. It goes some way to explaining why there are so many more Remain MPs than Leave MPs. Why so many journalists and economists and businessmen seemed to queue up to back the Remain camp. All of these professions are dominated by middle class people, and people who are more likely to vote remain. However much the political class tried to rally around the Remain campaign though, there are some communities who just don’t listen to them anymore. Communities which feel like they have nothing in common with the political class, and feel ignored and isolated by them. This is what gave this vote such a strange flavour. The fact that it was a predominately working class revolution, led by extremely wealthy men such as Farage, Gove and Johnson. It was a vote pushed through by people who are traditionally less likely to vote, more disillusioned with politics, and more distrustful of politicians.

 

The one factor which did little to explain the vote, was the traditional left vs right political split which was not the key divide in this referendum. Many left wing people voted Remain. Many voted Leave. The same is true of the Right. This was not politics as usual in that regard. It was something very different.