The malaise of the squeezed middle: Challenging the narrative of the ‘left behind’ Brexiter

Lorenza Antonucci, Laszl Horvath, Yordan Kutiyski, André Krouwel

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    The result of the referendum in the United Kingdom in 2016 to leave the European Union sparked much interest on the socio-economic characteristics of ‘Brexiters’. In this article we challenge the popularised view of the Leave voter as an outsider and find that individuals from an intermediate class, whose malaise is due to a declining financial position, represent an important segment of the Brexit vote. We use individual-level data from a post-Brexit survey based on the British Election Study. Our analysis tests three predictive models. First, although our analysis confirms the negative association between education and Leave vote, we find that voting Leave is associated more with intermediate levels of education than with low or absent education, in particular in the presence of a perceived declining economic position. Secondly, we find that Brexiters hold distinct psycho-social features of malaise due to declining economic conditions, rather than anxiety or anger. Thirdly, our exploratory model finds voting Leave associated with self-identification as middle class, rather than with working class. We also find that intermediate levels of income were not more likely to vote for remain than low income groups. Overall our analysis of the Brexit vote underlines the importance of considering the political behaviour of the declining middle.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)211-229
    JournalCompetition & Change
    Issue number3
    Early online date18 Apr 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


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