Why Did the Middle Class Vote for Brexit?

Contrary to what the media have portrayed over the years since the referendum in June 2016, it was the middle class (not the working class) that voted for Brexit.

Ever since the result of the referendum in the early hours of June 24th, 2016, there has been a never ending debate between the so called “Brexiteers” and “Remainers” over Brexit; leaving the country in a deeply divided state: the result of the referendum was very close indeed, in the end the leave side prevailed with 52% of the vote.

Supporters of the Remain campaign, including the mainstream media, were quick to point to the working class and the northern parts of the U.K. as the primary source of blame for the referendum result in order to discredit the leave vote as a whole. However, what research has shown us in recent years is that in fact it was the middle class that voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. There are very good reasons for this: it is a well known fact that the middle class is in decline, not only in the UK, but in the rest of the world as automation, stagnant wages, and heavy regulation leave the middle classes in a precarious state.

After the referendum result, Danny Dorling, a professor at the London School of Economics publicly spoke about the reasons why the middle class voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, and he appeared on BBC Newsnight in September of 2016 to discuss the topic. According to the research carried out it is clear that the south of England; which is considered to be one of the most affluent areas of the United Kingdom, was in fact the region that counted for 52% of all leave voters in that referendum.

Overall, according to Lord Ashcroft Polls, 59% of all leave voters were middle class when taking social grades A, B, and C1 into account, and in a town called Tewkesbury - another typical middle class town - 53% of voters voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in 2016. The result is similar to other areas in the rest of the country; apart from London, which was the only region as a whole to vote for the United Kingdom to remain as a member-state of the European Union.

Another factor which contributed to the leave vote was elderly people: this category constituted a significant portion of all leave voters. In recent years, especially after the 2008 financial crisis the elderly haven’t been doing very well at all, and have seen a fall in their standards of living. In 2012, the life expectancy of elderly women began to fall in the United Kingdom, and since then it has been continually getting worse year after year, and in the year 2015, 52,400 people passed away; which is one of the worst fatality figures since the Second World War. What is clear, as Danny Dorling has said, is that elderly have not been doing well in recent years and the promise of saving £350 million a year for the NHS was enticing to say the least, and can provide an explanation as to why the elderly voted in favor of Brexit in such large numbers.

It is argued that growing inequality has affected Middle England to a great extent, afterall the United Kingdom is the most unequal country in all of Europe. A referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was the one of the only viable options to improve their standards of living.

Businesses have also been struggling against the bureaucratic nature of the European Union, which stifles innovation, entrepreneurship, and further growth of the economy. The private sector is the productive sector, and the European Union has only favored big business, while small and medium sized businesses have had to struggle with bureaucracy and red tape: around 80%-90% of all laws in each E.U. member-state have their origins in directives of the European Union, which are then transposed into the national law of all E.U. member-states.

As anyone who is experienced in politics knows, democracy and the European Union project are incompatible. The Commission is the only body of the European Union that is able to propose legislation, the MEPs cannot propose any legislation themselves, they can only request amendments and approve or reject legislation by a majority of votes cast. All of these processes are far removed from the European electorate as a whole, who are just as disenfranchised with the European Union as the British were when they voted for the United Kingdom to leave.

Is it impossible for the European Commission to enact legislation that suits the needs of four hundred and fifty million people in all 27 member-states of the European Union, who have their own desires and ways of living. It is because of the European Union itself that its GDP is in decline (which currently stands at 15% of global GDP), and now that the United Kingdom has left, the E.U.’s GDP is on course to decline even further.

The University of Teesside and the University of Exeter have also come to the same conclusion: that middle class people were the driving force behind the vote to leave the European Union. According to their findings: the reason why middle class voters voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union was because of declining economic conditions and a sense of malaise: this would accurately describe the term ‘squeezed middle’ which as previously described refers to those who sense that they are experiencing decline in economic position. The research was published in “Competition and Change” and was carried out by a cross-national team based at Teesside University, the Q Step center at the University of Exeter, and web developer company Kieskompas in Amsterdam.

It is clear that the middle class globally has lost income due to globalization, and are in a situation of clear precarity. In fact, new research from the Swiss Economic Institute shows that globally the working class and middle class have seen a decrease in income share; whereas high income shares have risen over the last three to four decades.