UK

Why Did People Vote For Brexit? Understanding The Leave Vote In The EU Referendum

And how disadvantaged Leave voters could change the face of British politics.

07/12/2016 11:54 GMT | Updated 07/12/2016 16:05 GMT

Economically disadvantaged, anti-immigration voters helped secure the vote to leave the European Union and could make a “big difference” to electoral politics in Britain - if they continue to vote.

The group, who voted Leave as part of a broader coalition of voters, doesn’t normally vote but did so in June, a new report into the EU referendum has found.

Kirby Swales, author of the Understanding The Leave Vote report, told The Huffington Post UK: “Despite being a small group they tipped the vote. If they do continue to vote they will make quite a big difference in electoral politics.”

Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive
A broad coalition of voters helped secure victory for the Leave campaign

“Which way will they turn?” he added. “Will they vote Ukip or will they vote Labour? Many of them are traditionally Labour but we don’t which way they will turn.

“They’re up for grabs.”

Swales’ report, published on Wednesday by social research body NatCen, found three distinct groups of voters formed a coalition of Leave voters.

NatCen
Income had a huge role: 66% of those earning lower than £1,200 per month voted Leave

The combination of middle class affluent Eurosceptics, the older working class, and those poorer, anti-immigrant voters, tipped the balance in Leave’s favour and delivered the 52% win in June.

Swales added: “There has been a lot of media focus on the so-called ‘left behinds’ but they’re too small to win on their own. It was a coalition of three groups.”

NatCen
Link to housing: 70% of those living in rented Council properties voted Leave

“I think people have not recognised the vast numbers of middle class traditional conservatives who voted Leave,” he said.

Of the ‘new voters’ who cast ballots in the referendum, but who did not vote at the 2015 general election, some 60% voted Leave.

The report also found a link between the readership of certain newspapers and the vote to Leave.

Data from a recent British Election Study found 70% of those who read The Sun and the Daily Express voted Leave.

Some 66% of those who read the Daily Mail voted Leave, while 55% of Daily Telegraph readers did so.

NatCen
Power of the printed press: Leave vote by newspaper read most often

Of these newspapers, The Sun was the most read publication among all voters in the EU referendum, followed by the Mail and the Daily Mirror.

People who told researchers they bought the Sun, Express or Mail were as much as 30% more likely to vote Leave than those who said they did not buy a paper at all.

Swales said: “What we found is that people do follow the recommendation of their papers. 

“People read newspapers that are associated with their underlying ideology. It’s not necessarily a causal thing but we do see it as highly-linked.

“If you wanted to speculate, imagine if the [Daily] Mail or The Sun recommended Remain or they sat on the fence, it might have a big influence.”

The report also found that messages from Leave campaigns resonated more with the public and that the vote split largely down traditional party lines.

NatCen
The vote to Leave ran largely down party lines, the report found

The report also noted a correlation between education and the Leave vote.

NatCen
Education was a key differentiator between those voting Remain and Leave

And there were stark contrasts in the proportion of the Leave vote across the country.

NatCen
The percentage of Leave votes in the UK by region: the East and West Midlands had the highest proportion of Leave voters