A comprehensive report on Brexit and public opinion has revealed that the UK is a country deeply divided by class, place and age, and a values divide is emerging which could dramatically impact on politics in the years to come.
Nineteen months on from the EU referendum, University of Manchester Professors Rob Ford and Maria Sobolewska have co-authored the report ‘Brexit and public opinion’ by The UK in a Changing Europe, which underlines the divisions in UK society:Brexit has created new political identities with Leavers and Remainers viewing the world through prisms which shape their receptiveness to evidence based arguments.
The generations are divided, 73% of 18-24 year olds voted Remain; 60% of over 65s voted Leave.
This division has grown even more stark following the general election and is turning into a political cleavage.
Brexit exposed the growing distinction between public attitudes in towns and cities, which relates to their contrasting economic trajectories: areas that experienced the most decline in recent decades voted Leave, whereas areas of relative growth were more likely to vote Remain.
Divisions exist between the individual nations of the UK over fundamental constitutional questions
The report also highlights a potentially emergent divide.
Those who thought equal opportunities for ethnic minorities have gone too far voted heavily for Leave, and those who felt equal opportunities have not gone far enough were much more likely to have voted Remain.
The report warns that the robust link between views about ethnic equality and votes in the EU referendum could be a sign of an emergent values divide in the UK.
For those who want a second referendum, the authors make several arguments as to why it is highly unlikely people will change their minds about the UK leaving the EU:
People’s preferences about EU membership are tied up with values, which are entrenched and unlikely to shift.
The report also talks of a ‘confirmation bias’ which leads Remainers and Leavers to discount information that does not correspond with their values
for many Leavers, the attraction of Brexit was about identity politics more than economic calculus.