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So what was behind that vote? July 11, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

The Guardian notes:

The British Social Attitudes survey, which has been conducted every year since 1983, was carried out between June and December 2016. It consisted of 2,942 interviews with a random, representative sample of adults in Britain.

The BSA itself is a useful tool for assessing changing attitudes in the UK. The report is in and amongst other things it has a most interesting chapter in the overall report on Brexit.

The overview states:

This chapter considers two popular explanations for the vote by the British public in June 2016 to leave the EU. The first is that the vote reflects the concerns of more ‘authoritarian’, socially conservative voters about the social consequences of EU membership – and especially about immigration. The second is that the vote was occasioned by general public disenchantment with politics. The chapter suggests that the first of these two provides the better explanation. The EU referendum can therefore be characterised as a litmus test of the merits of the EU project, and perhaps of globalisation more generally, rather than as a lightning rod for wider political discontent.

And along the way it points to a very mixed set of motivations but one where immigration predominated and those who voted Brexit were tilted sharply towards  more ‘authoritarian’ mindsets on the part of those voting and:

Those who would like greater effort at reducing inequality can be regarded as being on the ‘left’ while those who take the opposite view may be described as being on the ‘right’ (again, the details can be found in the technical appendix to this report). But if as in the case of our ‘libertarian-authoritarian’ scale we divide our sample into the one-third most ‘left-wing’ and the one-third most ‘right-wing’, we find relatively little difference between them in terms of how they voted in the EU referendum. The 52% level of support for leaving among those with left-wing views is only a little higher than the 45% support to be found among those with right-wing views.

Meanwhile, there is little sign that the Leave vote was motivated by a wish to see greater government intervention in the economy. If anything, the opposite was the case. Support for leaving was actually rather higher among those who favour “less government regulation of business” (55%) than oppose the idea (34%). Equally, support was also rather higher among those who favour “cuts in government spending” (55%) than among those who are opposed (37%). In any event the differences are rather small, while we might note that support for leaving was actually higher among those who favour “support for declining industries to protect jobs” (50%) than it was among those who are opposed (39%).

The logic of this is that such ‘economic’ issues were much less important than ‘identity’ issues for those voters.

And the conclusion argues:

Suggestions that the EU referendum represented a lightning rod for a general disenchantment with politics are largely wide off the mark. True, those with less interest in politics may have, relatively speaking, been a little more likely than usual to make it to the polls, while those who trust government less were a little more likely to vote to leave. But for the most part the outcome of the referendum reflected the concern of more ‘authoritarian’, socially conservative voters in Britain – that is, primarily older voters and those with few, if any, educational qualifications – about some of the social consequences of EU membership, most notably in respect of immigration. In a society in which relatively few have ever felt a strong sense of European identity, the debate about EU membership seems to have brought that concern to the fore such that in the event a narrow majority voted to leave. In short, the EU referendum was a litmus test of the merits of the EU project, and perhaps indeed of globalisation more generally – a test that, on this occasion, the EU was deemed by a majority to have failed.



1. crocodileshoes - July 11, 2017
WorldbyStorm - July 11, 2017

+1 Key point. Mocking people is a terrible terrible way to go politically. It’s like the stuff about Brexit voters being stupid. Misinformed and misled very possibly, but not stupid.


crocodileshoes - July 11, 2017

Depends on what you mean by ‘stupid’, I suppose. There’s a kind of aggressive, don’t -know-the-facts-and-proud-of-it attitude abroad that is hard to excuse. When presented with a simple, incontrovertible refutation, so many put their fingers in their ears and hum loudly: I struggle to see them as victims of the Trump or Brexit debacles.
In practical terms, sure, it’s politically unproductive to diss a chunk of voters. But it’s hard to keep on saying ‘You have a point’ when they just don’t.


WorldbyStorm - July 11, 2017

Agreed, but I do think that even if they don’t have a point – and like you I’d struggle to find one – they are oppressed by toxic media and political narratives which use them and sideline them quite deliberately. In that sense I think they are victims. Even if some of them hold deeply toxic attitudes. Of course some are dupes but I think that’s a smaller number by far.


crocodileshoes - July 11, 2017

James O’Brien demolishes Leave voter in farcical on-air standoff – The Independent


2. Miguel62 - July 12, 2017

No surprises here. The Leave vote was always about immigration, immigration, immigration. You only have to look at the posters, listen to the rhetoric. It was all about “taking back control” not of economic policy but of “borders” – for which read immigration.

In truth the economic case for Brexit is poor to non-existent. (Admittedly there is a, unconvincing in my view, leftish argument that Brexit would allow greater state involvement in the economy eg the steel industry, but did this really bring out the YES vote???) Prior to the referendum, it was all about the benefits of an EFTA type arrangement. I even remember hearing Farage on BBC4 (a few years ago, mind) extolling the “Norway model” and advocating something similar. Then post-referendum it was all about separating free movement of goods from free movement of people. When reality dawned that the EU wouldn’t wear this, then the Brexiteers were inexorably caught in the logic of their own position that immigration control trumped everything and membership of the Single Market and the customs union was swiftly thrown under the bus. But this hadn’t been pre-planned or even much thought out – it just emerged as the inescapable consequence of ditching free movement of people. And now the Brexiteers are making up the arguments as they go along. And it shows.


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2017

That is a very interesting point you make about how immigration has skewered Brexiteers by shutting down alternative options. And that dovetails with the strategic reorientation of UKIP a few years back to shift from sovereignty as their focus to immigration which saw then rapidly accrue both support and a sort of political influence on the broader narratives around Brexit. Now they and by extension other Brexiteers are forced to stand by the logic of that reorientation.


Miguel62 - July 12, 2017

Exactly! Once they moved on from keeping the £, it all snowballed in a way that hadn’t been really planned at all. I still think there’s a 50/50 chance the whole Brexit project will collapse ignominiously under the strain of its own incoherence.

As an aside, there’s also a lack of logic in the link between the EU and immigration. Most immigration to the UK isn’t actually driven by the EU and that which is, is largely accepted by all sides as being necessary anyway to fill low paid employment.


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2017

Very true.

BTW Norths site always fascinates me, even taking into account caveats re Booker climate change etc. They hate UKIP with a passion don’t they? But I do find his analysis persuasive and a bit terrifying re the incoherence of UK gov policy in the area


sonofstan - July 12, 2017

Vince Cable said something yesterday how through the ref campaign he would meet pensioners in towns in Dorset shit-scared about being ‘flooded’ when there wasn’t a single non-British person for miles around. Whereas London, Manchester and other big cities, ‘flooded’ as they are, generally voted remain.

I find the very fact of this – and I agree ‘immigration’ was THE issue – somewhat hard to square with experience. Granted I live in a constituency that voted remain in the exact inverse of the national vote, but I still have to assume that close ot half the people I see on the street voted ‘leave’. And yet, while by no means perfect, the relations between ‘native’ white English and immigrant communities (2nd/3rd gneration) are relatively good – compared to France or Germany, you simply don’t see the kind of segregation you get in cities or towns, BME people are much more visible in politics, in the media etc. than anywhere else I’ve seen in Europe (anecdotal, I know) – and certainly nothing like the US in terms of segregated housing (or Belfast, come to that). So if immigrant communities from much further afield are – relatively speaking – an unexceptional part of the fabric of British life, what’s so difficult about 1m Poles?


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2017

Media depictions? I’ve puzzled the same question around in my head. That’s all I’ve got and I agree entirely on many levels inter community relations are pretty good (certainly a world away from NYC as I experienced it in the late 80s etc).


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