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Brexit blues

by on June 27, 2016

Well Monday may seem slightly less chaotic than Friday morning but only marginally so!

One early hot topic has been the issue of how different age groups voted in the UK’s EU referendum.

The BBC provides a summary of the key argument that polls showed older voters were more likely to say the were going to vote/did vote ‘leave’, and that demographics overlaid on the geography of results showed areas with older populations did vote leave.

Moreover the BBC also urges caution: “But there’s a danger in generalising” that say.  Indeed there is!  For once I’m not going to dwell on the conflation of age and generation – and the issues of defining generational groups in any case – but as the BBC points out education level and socioeconomic status seem to have played a huge part too.  These stats are less readily to hand however although the Telegraph’s maps provided some useful visual representations.  This has lead to some to ask, as in this piece in the Independent, why were 16 and 17 yr olds not allowed to vote as they were in the Scottish Independence referendum.

At the same time there is an argument that turnout amongst younger voters was significantly lower:

What it is worth highlighting here is however that we don’t actually get a ‘real’ breakdown of the vote by age.  It is based on polls and other demographic information

It is nevertheless very depressing to see the anger directed at a generic ‘older voter’, who were generally depicted as conservative, selfish and about to die.  Those were the more kind things that have been said.  The independent article above quoted a 17 year old as saying “It’s very frustrating for me as a 17-year-old to see decisions being made by people who will, no doubt, die within the next ten years while I am unable to have a say. The future belongs to us, the youth.”  The eldest age category used for the statistics is 65+.  It will probably come as something as a surprise to many 65 year olds that they have no future.  Likewise criticism directed at younger voters lower turnout by labeling them as ‘lazy’ is exceptionally unhelpful.  (Extrapolating this to a generational characteristic is even worse since this assumes younger voters are less likely to vote today than previous groups at the same age and I’ve not seen that analysis.)

There are lots of reasons to be angry and disappointed after the referendum result (for the  the record I voted Remain and am both angry and disappointed).  But it has never occurred to me to be angry at or disappointed with a particular group of voters, personally I would rather direct those feelings towards the campaigns and the politicians (on both sides actually).

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