August 9, 2017

Brexit could have been avoided if people had better education

By Jack Rear

According to a new study from the University of Leicester, one of the most decisive factors in how people voted during the Brexit referendum was their level of education.

The paper was published this week in World Development, a peer-reviewed journal.

The study looked at the way people voted and compared it to various demographics.

University or other higher education is a decisive factor. In fact, the report estimates that if just three percent more people had attended university Britain would not be negotiating its withdrawal from the EU now.

Age and gender were also important factors in how people voted but neither were as important as a university education.

Income and the number of immigrants living in an area did not have a substantial impact on the way people voted.

Which university towns voted Remain vs. Leave?

Interestingly, when looking at the map it’s clear that, by and large, all the major university towns in the country voted decisively for Remain:

  • Manchester – 60.4 percent Remain
  • Liverpool – 58.2 percent Remain
  • Cambridge – 73.8 percent Remain (South Cambridgeshire – 60.2% Remain)
  • Oxford – 70.3 percent Remain
  • York – 58 percent Remain
  • Edinburgh – 74.4 percent Remain
  • Glasgow – 66.6 percent Remain
  • Cardiff – 60 percent Remain
  • Warwick – 58.8 percent Remain
  • Bristol – 61.7 percent Remain
  • Belfast West – 74.1 percent Remain
  • In addition, London, home to 40 universities voted, on average among all 33 constituencies 59.9 percent Remain.

Obviously most of these are more pro-Remain than than rest of the country on average who voted 51.9 percent Leave. Clearly university education is a big factor.

Speaking to the Independent, Aihua Zhang from the University Of Leicester’s mathematics department explained why the polls prior to the referendum got it so wrong:

The EU referendum raised significant debate and speculation of the intention of the electorate and its motivations in voting. Much of this debate was informed by simple data analysis examining individual factors, in isolation, and using opinion polling data. This, in the case of the EU referendum where multiple factors influence the decision simultaneously, failed to predict the eventual outcome. On June 23rd 2016, Britain’s vote to leave the EU came as a surprise to most observers, with a bigger voter turnout – 72.2 percent – than that of any UK general election in the past decade.

However, while most university towns voted much more in favour of Remain than the general consensus, not all did.

For example, Nottingham, the 6th largest university in the UK, and the largest in a Remain constituency voted 50.8 percent Leave.

Sheffield, home of the 13th largest university, voted 51 percent Leave. Northumberland, where Northumbria University (17th largest) is located voted 54.1 percent Leave.

Could the university voters received their education at have affected things as well?

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