The Importance of Place: explaining the characteristics underpinning the Brexit vote across different parts of the UK

Published on Public Finances and the Economy

Post-referendum analysis has highlighted the importance of demographic, economic and cultural factors on individuals’ vote. In this note, we consider the importance of place; highlighting the extent to which those same factors matter across 378 of Britain’s 380 local authorities. We test the strength of the relationship between these different factors and the vote while holding all else constant (using a series of regression models) for England, Wales and Scotland.

  • Evidence that the geographical distribution of living standards influenced the referendum vote, with employment having a significant effect
  • But recent changes in pay appear not to have had a significant effect, implying that living standard issues are long-established
  • Demographics also matter, with older areas voting to leave and areas with lots of students being more likely to vote remain
  • Cultural and geographical factors play a key role, represented by the importance of feelings of cohesion within the local area, and by the tendency for different regions to vote differently even after controlling for all other factors
  • The level of migration doesn’t seem to matter but the pace of change over the past decade or so does
  • The strength of the correlation with higher qualification levels in an area is particularly telling, with this variable closely associated with both economic and wider cultural factors