Brexit: how did the UK vote?

The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016. Leave won 51.9% of the vote across the UK, including 53.4% in England, 52.5% in Wales, 44.2% in Northern Ireland and 38.0% in Scotland. Remain won over 50% of the vote in three electoral regions: Scotland, Northern Ireland and London.

Early analysis suggests a strong correlation between the proportion of people who voted Leave and the proportion of people who voted for UKIP in the 2014 European Parliament elections. There was also a strong correlation between leave votes and the proportion of people who were not graduates. Leave votes were more weakly correlated with social grade and age.

Support for Leave across the UK

Reporters have pointed out that support for Remain was concentrated in London, Northern Ireland and Scotland. But not all electoral regions weigh equally: the more votes, the greater the impact on the national result. The chart below shows how each electoral region contributed to the national result.

The largest number of both Leave and Remain votes were cast in the South East of England.

Share of the national vote by electoral region

160624 Fig 1

Note: In this chart, 100% equals the sum of Leave plus Remain votes across all regions

Source: Electoral Commission European Union Referendum results

Social characteristics associated with Leave

Polls before the referendum suggested there was an association between some social characteristics, such as age and level of education, and voting Leave. Ballots are secret, but Lord Ashcroft’s post-referendum poll supports these suggestions.

Of course, polls have a somewhat questionable record on this matter. But analysing the relationship between social characteristics and Leave votes by looking at their prevalence at local authority level confirms (some of) the relationships they suggest.

The charts below show the relationships between Leave votes and voting behaviour, highest qualification, social grade, and age across Great Britain. Note social grade is a widely used measure to classify the population by their profession. Social grade C2DE refers to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, pensioners and the unemployed.

Percentage voting Leave in each local authority by selected social characteristics

160624 Fig 2

Sources

Electoral Commission European Union Referendum results

Census 2011, ONS NOMIS (‘UK quick statistics’ dataset, for data on social grade, education and age)

House of Commons Library briefing paper European Parliament Elections 2014

The strength of the relationships depicted in the charts is expressed by the R2 value. An R2 value of 0 means there is no relationship, and an R2 value of 1 means the two variables are completely correlated.

The strongest of the relationships shown above is between the proportion of people in a local authority who voted Leave and the proportion who voted for UKIP in the 2014 European Parliament election (R2=0.75). A Second Reading blog from 2014 analyses Common threads among UKIP voters.

The relationship between the proportion of people voting Leave in a local authority and the proportion of people who were not graduates was also strong (R2=0.60). The other relationships were not as strong.

A detailed House of Commons Library briefing paper analysing the results will be published soon.

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