Who Voted for Brexit? An Analysis of Voter Turnout and Its Implications

Who voted for Brexit? A very interesting analysis on the characteristics and demographics behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union comes from Zsolt Darvas, a senior fellow at think tank Bruegel in Brussels, Belgium.

Darvas did several regression analyses to find that low-income voters as well as older Britons supported leaving the European Union. Younger people and those with a degree were more likely to vote to stay in the Union.

And despite claims that Scotland was ready to bolt Great Britain if the UK voted to leave, turnout was low in Scotland as well as Northern Ireland, and London, where staying int he EU was preferable.

At the same time, a large presence of immigrants in a region was not a significant factor in the vote to stay or leave. Neither was the availability of disposable income in a region, according to Darvas.

But the lack of money did play a role.

The poverty rate is also robust and statistically significant, with a parameter estimate of about 1, implying that a 1 percentage point higher poverty rate boosted the share of ‘leave’ votes by 1 percentage point. This result highlights the importance of poverty as a determinant of ‘leave’ votes.”

Among some other findings, Darvas found that:

  • Turnout was lower in areas where young people are a higher share of the resident population. Therefore, the young, the main supporters of ‘remain’, abstained more from voting.

  • Older people (many of whom are ‘leave’ supporters) cast their votes in a higher proportion.

  • People with a degree (‘remain’ supporters) tended to vote in higher proportions, while people without qualifications (‘leave’ supporters) abstained more from voting.

  • Among the three social indicators, inequality contributed positively to the votes, while greater poverty and higher unemployment discouraged people from voting. These results together with the finding for uneducated people, suggests that disadvantaged people tended to vote in smaller proportions.”

Finally, Darvas concludes from the data that if Europe wants to be more unified, it should probably do more to create opportunities for low-income households to grow their wealth.

This finding calls for more inclusive growth, which is defined by the OECD as ‘economic growth that creates opportunity for all segments of the population and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity, both in monetary and non-monetary terms, fairly across society.’ In the UK, income inequality – a key indicator of inclusive growth – is almost the highest in the European Union. Theresa May, the new UK prime minister, has rightly emphasized very strongly the importance of a social reform to reduce the inequality of opportunities.”

Read more about who voted for Brexit.