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CEP discussion paper
Who voted for Brexit? A comprehensive district-Level analysis
Sascha O. Becker, Thiemo Fetzer and Dennis Novy
April 2017
Paper No' CEPDP1480:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: D72; N44; R23; Z13

Tags: political economy; voting; referendum; migration; austerity

On 23 June 2016, the British electorate voted to leave the European Union. We analyse vote and turnout shares across 380 local authority areas in the United Kingdom. We find that exposure to the EU in terms of immigration and trade provides relatively little explanatory power for the referendum vote. Instead, we find that fundamental characteristics of the voting population were key drivers of the Vote Leave share, in particular their education profiles, their historical dependence on manufacturing employment as well as low income and high unemployment. At the much finer level of wards within cities, we find that areas with deprivation in terms of education, income and employment were more likely to vote Leave. Our results indicate that a higher turnout of younger voters, who were more likely to vote Remain, would not have overturned the referendum result.