Britain’s Young Eurosceptics: A Hidden Demographic

The vote to leave the European Union was a shocking moment for everyone, and especially for the academics, researchers, and journalists who failed to discern the mood of the public. What followed was a flurry of research looking at a number of potential causes for Brexit. Socioeconomic factors, age, ethnicity, and education; all of these among others were examined with a keen eye. There was also a boost in public discourse, with many people voicing their opinions on the proceeding events and setbacks and, as we’ve seen in recent days, many taking to the streets.

Young people in media are often represented by staunchly pro-European activists. Be it the EU-Supergirl and her musical performances seemingly fit for a torture cell at Guantanamo bay, or the impassioned and ever-present Question Time audience member lamenting their stolen future. What we don’t hear often are the opinions of younger voters with Eurosceptic viewpoints.

Rakib Ehsan, a research fellow at The Henry Jackson Society, looked into this hidden demographic using data from YouGov. This survey of 1351 young adults, conducted in 2016, found that 1 in 4 voted Leave in the referendum. The results also allowed a number of observations to be made.

As expected, this group of voters were much more concerned with immigration, and were much more likely to be critical of cultural diversity. Education was a hot-button issue, with Eurosceptics less likely to trust academics and others working in the education sector. This reflects the sentiments seen in students allegedly being unwilling to voice their pro-Brexit opinions in class.

Young people who voted Leave were also found to be more concerned with issues relating to security, such as defence and crime, with remain voters far more concerned with environmental issues.

Political disaffection was seen as a major driving force behind the unexpected victory for Leave in 2016, and both Leave and Remain-supporting voters see it as an ever-growing issue. However, young Leave supporters were surprisingly more trusting of politicians than their remain counterparts. A whole host other observations were made, showing how our understanding of leave voters remains incomplete, and that treating either group as a monolith is unwise. The full report is available here.

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