Explaining the Brexit vote

Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics)
Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics)

While the British political elites are puzzling over a political strategy for Brexit, we are still left wondering about what drove 51.9 percent of British voters to end the UK’s membership in the EU. Professor Sara Hobolt from the London School of Economics has answers for us. Drawing on the rich data of the 7th British Election Study conducted prior to the referendum, she explores various hypotheses explaining British voters’ attitudes towards Brexit. In her article “The Brexit Vote: A Divided Nation, a Divided Continent” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, she finds a strong propensity of those who felt left behind by the forces of globalization – the less educated and less well-off – to vote Leave, while the winners of globalization – the younger and highly educated professionals – had a strong tendency to vote Remain. Notwithstanding evidence that the UK has been by far the most Eurosceptic member state for the past few years, there is more to worry about for supporters of the EU project. The divide between losers and winners of globalization reflects the same sentiments behind the recent surge in support for populist Eurosceptic parties across Europe. The future of the Union appears to depend more than ever on public support for the European integration project. Sara argues that the challenge facing the EU at present is to address the concerns of a growing share of voters across Europe, who see the EU “as part of the problem rather than the solution when it comes to protecting ordinary citizens from the challenges of an ever more globalized and integrated world”.