The 2016 Referendum, Brexit and the Left Behind: An Aggregate-Level Analysis of the Result

Matthew Goodwin, Oliver Heath

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Why did Britain vote for Brexit? What was the relative importance of factors such as education, age, immigration and ethnic diversity? And to what extent did the pattern of public support for Brexit across the country match the pattern of public support in earlier years for eurosceptic parties, notably the UK Independence Party (UKIP)? In this article we draw on aggregate-level data to conduct an initial exploration of the 2016 referendum vote. First, we find that turnout was generally higher in more pro-Leave areas. Second, we find that public support for Leave closely mapped past support for UKIP. And third, we find that support for Leave was more polarised along education lines than support for UKIP ever was. The implication of this finding is that support for euroscepticism has both widened and narrowed—it is now more widespread across Britain but it is also more socially distinctive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-332
Number of pages10
JournalThe Political Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date26 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016

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