THE BLOG

Did 'New Voters' Tip The Balance In The Brexit Vote?

07/12/2016 15:51 GMT | Updated 08/12/2017 10:12 GMT
Reuters Photographer / Reuters

The vote to Leave the European Union was remarkable in drawing together a coalition of voters who you never see voting the same way when it comes to ordinary party politics. Whether you were on the traditional left or right made no difference to whether you voted Remain or Leave. In fact, as our report out today identifies, there were three distinct and very different groups in the population who voted strongly to Leave. We define them by the characteristics that stand them out the most: "affluent Eurosceptics", the "older working class" and the "economically deprived and anti-immigration".

The most striking of these groups is the last group (i.e. the most disadvantaged, who have also been called 'the left behind'). It is these that surprised pollsters and commentators and potentially tipped the balance towards Leave. This group represent about 12% of the population and 95% of them voted leave.

The turnout for this group was much higher than expected and, crucially, a third of them (34%) did not vote in the 2015 General Election but did in the Referendum.

Moreover, many of them are the people political scientists would normally describe as disengaged from politics - they don't trust politics and don't feel like they have influence. It's worth noting that these were not the only people who turned out for the Referendum having not voted in 2015 - but they are certainly a large group and are especially interesting because of their shared outlook and experiences. They are typically struggling financially, have low levels of education qualifications given their age, and they almost all (91%) think immigration has made things worse.

This raises two interesting questions. Will this "new voter" keep voting? And if they do, how will they vote?

The first we can't answer with any real certainty. However, it is the firmly held belief of political scientists that voting is a habit. If you have voted once, you are more likely to vote again. There seems to be a reasonable chance then that these new voters, especially having had a good experience at the Polls, will vote in future elections.

How they might use these votes is an intriguing prospect. Among the "economically deprived and anti-immigration" group, UKIP is the most supported party (32% say they support UKIP), but those saying they support no party at all is the highest group of all. Only a minority are Labour supporters, which is surprising given their socio-economic status. Thus who they will vote for is not yet clear, but they do seem to represent an opportunity for one or other of the parties - especially Labour and UKIP.

The key to winning their support would seem to be about hearing what they have to say about immigration and addressing their financial worries. These people are not "Just About Managing" many of them are really finding it difficult.