There are 4 groups of people that I can identify as supporting Brexit. The first group, which I would argue makes the most part, is made up of normal people who are fed up with the status quo. Nationally, Brexit is predominant an English demand, not a Scottish, Irish or Welsh demand. The next two groups are separated by social status and income (what the Brits so self-flagellatingly refer to as “class”). The third group is described in occupational/professional terms.
This post is divided in 4 sections:
- A general look at the voter intentions
- The misinformed and frustrated with the status Quo
- Across the Regions of the UK
- Income Groups
A look at the polls
The polls have been really tight. Moreover, there’s a wide range within which different pollsters predict the outcome of Brexit. This can be confounding, which is why moving averages matter.
Understanding the general picture requires some deconstruction. NatCen offers a good overview of matters in this report from October 2015.
The misinformed and frustrated with the status Quo
I believe that the majority of people voting to leave Brexit are doing so because they are either misinformed or frustrated by the status quo, and consciously or unconsciously end up voting out based on misinformation or out as a protest.
I’m sure that there are plenty of people who are very well informed about the EU and the pros and cons of the UK’s position in it who still decide to vote out, but I would argue that those are a small minority of ideologically driven anarcho-capitalists or anarcho-syndicalists who would always vote against the regime, which is a perfectly informed and principled way to vote.
But the majority of the rest are normal people who are satisfied with the democratic institutions but believe that the EU is undemocratic, or too centralised , or that big business has taken over, or that it is a Bildeberg conspiracy (no hope for these guys) or that it is dragging down British competitiveness, or that migration is out of control because of EU policies or that the UK would be safer outside the EU. All of this is wrong of course, but I’ll get to it in a little bit.
The point however is that they are deciding to leave an institution because they are either misled about the policies of the institution (which even if they were correct would warrant more, not less participation in order to change the status quo) or the rules that guide the EU.
It is more difficult to make an assessment of the manner in which social background influences voters preferences. My impression, based on very limited, London and Facebook-based anecdotal evidence is that there seem to be 2 groups that very strongly and consistently favour Brexit. Members of the relatively poor and uneducated who get their news mainly from the Sun and the Daily Express and the very rich/traditionalists. Albeit for very different reasons, both of these groups have a range of things in common: they are authoritarian, traditionalists, prejudiced because they don’t mix much with foreigners and ethnic minorities and strongly influenced by views and valuing their collective national identity. However, the important thing is that these 2 groups are disaffected from the EU:
- The first group because they are alienated by their continuous exposure to vociferously anti-EU media.
- The second group because the centre of power which they have traditionally enjoyed a degree of cosiness to has been shifted from Westminster to Brussels. This is very much the point made by Michael Gove. (25”-35”) “To take back control from those organisations that are distant, unaccountable, elitist”.
But how does this reflect itself in voter intentions?
Across the Regions of the UK
YouGov provides a decomposition of referendum voter intentions across the country here:
Regionally, Brexit is favoured in England, outside of London and large university cities. There’s lukewarm support for it in Wales. Scotland meanwhile is solidly on the Remain side.
Given the previous identity arguments, it is not surprisingly to find English people wanting to leave society. The reason goes back to the They were the dominant national group in their own international union (the United Kingdom of Great Britain (read England, Wales and Scotland) and Northern Ireland). Within the EU, English people are not the dominant group. They did not write the rules, or conquer anyone. They are one among 29 member states (MSs) of the EU. One of the top 3 granted, but not the top dog.
To return to the previous point about the upper-class in the UK, I think it may be accurate to argue that they, and nationally-based businesses like the fishermen, would probably agree with the view reportedly expressed by Rupert Murdoch, that “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice”.
Unsurprisingly, support for Brexit is much more lukewarm in the other parts of the UK, although the difference is much more marked for Scotland than for Wales.
Unsurprisingly, London, which has the most foreigners and is the country’s business centre is also firmly in favour of remaining in the EU.