Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Understanding the social and cultural bases of Brexit

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Day:Wed 3 Jul
  • Tak Wing Chan, University College London

We use data from Understanding Society to evaluate two narratives about the social bases of Brexit. The first narrative sees Brexit as a revolt of the economically left-behinds. The second narrative attributes Brexit to the resurgence of an English nationalism. We show that people in relative poverty are more likely to support Brexit. But those residing in economically deprived neighbourhoods, or in areas that have seen greater import penetration from China are not more pro-Leave. Using the Weberian class--status distinction, it is social status, not social class, that stratifies Brexit support. Individuals for whom being British is important are more pro-Brexit. But those who choose national identity over sub-national identity and those reporting omnivorous cultural consumption are less supportive of Brexit. Overall, while there is empirical support for both narratives, the weight of the evidence suggests a strong cultural dimension in Brexit support.