It is wrong and unfair to denigrate older people because of the EU Referendum result
The conclusion of the EU referendum, with its relatively slender majority for Leave, has been warmly welcomed by those who campaigned for a ‘Brexit’ but generated shock and dismay on the part of many fervent Remainers and in some instances real anger too. Such emotions are understandable, given the huge potential ramifications of the decision to leave the EU, about which we will no doubt be hearing a lot more in the days and weeks to come.
What is less legitimate and frankly much less excusable, in my opinion, is when these outpourings descend into denigration of those who are presumed to be ‘to blame’. broadsheets, as ‘elderly’, ‘baby boomers’ or, in one case ‘wrinkly bastards’.
What is the evidence here?
An analysis of the age breakdown of voters for Leave and Remain from on the day opinion data certainly shows a definite age gradient:
However, this graph also shows that it wasn’t by any means only ‘older people’ who voted by a majority for Leave: in the 45-54 age group there was a clear majority among the voters for Leave and even in the younger cohort of 35-44s the numbers voting for and against staying in the EU were not all that different.
So a more accurate description of what happened might be that among those who voted, most young adults voted for Remain while most of their parents and grandparents (and their great grand parents too) voted for Leave.
An additional consideration that needs to be taken into account in understanding the impact of age on the result is turnout, as this information from Sky Data shows:
The pattern is consistent and clear: more than four in five people aged over 65 voted in the Referendum, compared to little more than one in three who voted in the youngest group eligible to do so.
Other important factors that explained the result
However, information presented by the Financial Times this weekend shows that age combined with turnout were not the only factors that explain the eventual result – indeed they suggest that they were not the principal factors at all.
Financial Times’ article explains, that the percentage of people with a degree was the most strongly associated with the share of voters who voted Remain.. As you may be aware, far fewer of today’s older people had the chance to go to university compared to younger age groups.
The third strongest explanatory factor was ‘not holding a passport’. The Financial Times ascribes this primarily to ’cultural attitudes’. Voting patterns around the London Mayoralty to substantiate this interpretation.
The fourth best indicator was income, in that they say that “areas with higher median incomes tended to lean Remain. Age and turnout come in fifth.
In practice, of course, all these factors – class, income, identity, geography and age interacted to produce the result, to varying degrees and with differential impacts across the whole of the UK. Scotland and London voting in favour of Remain, but to great swathes of the Midlands and the North of England (with the exception of some of the major cities) voting to Leave.
Not jumping to conclusions
So those who have leapt to the conclusion that the Referendum was a simple matter of ‘Old Versus Young’ are just plain wrong.
In other words, large numbers of individual men and women voted in ways that entirely refute the stereotypes being painted of their age groups and surely that should not come to any of us as a surprise. t about this re race but the horrible name calling referred to in this blog has received no publicity.