Brexit referendum: Voting analysis

Written by Rajnish Singh on 4 July 2016 in News

According to poll, most voters, including the majority of those who voted Leave expected a victory for Remain.

The Brexit referendum, on 23 June, had one of the highest voter turnouts in recent years - 72 per cent - compared to any general election since 1997, but was lower than the 84.59 per cent turn out for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Over 33 million people voted, with 17 million backing Leave (51.9 per cent) compared to 16 million voting to Remain (48.1 per cent). The Leave camp won by just 3.8 per cent. In the 1975 referendum, when the UK last voted on Europe, over 67 per cent of voters backed membership of the then European Economic Community. 


Splits along geographic lines

In the 1975 referendum, all four nations of the UK voted to stay. This time around, however, only Scotland (67 per cent) and Northern Ireland (63 per cent) voted to Remain, with Wales (53 per cent) and England (53 per cent) backing Brexit.

The areas with the biggest support for continued EU membership were in Gibraltar and London, while the east and south east of England were the most Eurosceptic.

Demographic differences

Not only were there big differences between the nations  that make up the UK, there were also clear differences along demographic lines.

According to a survey carried out by British Conservative pollster Lord Ashcroft - of 12,369 people on the day of the referendum - three quarters of 18-24 year olds (73 per cent) voted to Remain. Older voters, meanwhile, largely voted to Leave, including 60 per cent of people over the age of 65.

Differences also emerged between the employed and unemployed, with the majority of people in full or part-time work voting to Remain. Those not working, or on a pension, voted primarily for Leave.

The majority of people with a formal education voted to remain In (57 per cent of those with a university education and 65 per cent of those with a higher education degree). 81 per cent of people currently in full-time education voted to Remain. Those who finished their education at secondary school level or earlier generally voted to Leave.

Immigration was a major issue throughout the referendum campaign. Ashcroft's results highlight major voting differences between people from ethnic backgrounds, with the majority of white voters (53 per cent) backing Leave, while two thirds of people who described themselves as Asian voted to stay, along with 73 per cent of black voters. Seven in 10 Muslim voters backed Remain.

Decision making

Despite the long run-up to the EU referendum, most people said they only made their decision a month before the 23 June vote. 18 per cent of those who voted to Remain said they had made their decision just a few days beforehand.

Cultural divide

Those voters who backed staying in the EU tended to be socially liberal (60 per cent), believed in feminism (62 per cent), and saw multiculturalism (71 per cent), immigration (79 per cent) and globalisation (62 per cent) as 'forces for good'. Those backing Leave believed the following were 'forces for ill': social liberalism (74 per cent), feminism (74 per cent), multiculturalism (81 per cent), and globalisation (69 per cent). 

Remain expected to win

According to the Ashford poll, most voters, seven out of 10, expected a victory for Remain, including the majority (54 per cent) of those who voted Leave. Voters who backed Ukip were the only group (52 per cent) who expected Leave to win.

Europe's ageing population, high levels of unemployment, and the worst refugee crisis the EU has ever faced in its history have had an impact on the rise Eurosceptic anti-immigration movements across the continent.

EU leaders should take note of the issues and factors that pulled Britain out of the Union and would be wise not to dismiss the Brexit vote fundamentally as a British problem.

About the author

Rajnish Singh is commissioning editor of the Parliament Magazine


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