On 23 June 2016, the British electorate voted to leave the European Union. We analyze vote and turnout shares across 380 local authority areas in the United Kingdom. We find that fundamental characteristics of the voting population were key drivers of the Vote Leave share, in particular their age and education profiles as well as the historical importance of manufacturing employment, low income and high unemployment. Migration was relevant only from Eastern European countries, not from older EU states or non-EU countries.
We also find an important role for fiscal cuts being associated with Vote Leave. Our results indicate that modest reductions in fiscal cuts could have swayed the referendum outcome. In contrast, even drastic changes in immigration patterns would probably not have made a difference. We confirm the above findings at the much finer level of wards within cities. Our results cast doubt on the notion that short-term campaigning events had a meaningful influence on the vote.
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The views expressed in this research paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.