We use data from a large scale and nationally representative survey to explore the social and cultural bases of Brexit. There are strong age and educational gradients in Brexit support. It is social status, not social class, which predicts Brexit support. Individuals for whom being British is important are more likely to support Leave. But those who choose national identity over sub-national identity and those report-ing omnivorous cultural consumption are less supportive of Brexit. Those who live in the county in which they were born are more pro-Leave, but those who have stronger ties with their neighbours and neighbourhood, and those who are more involved in civic associations are pro-Remain. Net of individual characteristics, regional differences within England become insignificant. In fact, once local level of im-migration is taken into account, people living in the English regions are less pro-Leave than Londoners. Economic deprivation does not predict Brexit attitude. Individuals living in areas with a higher concentration of migrants are actually less pro-Brexit. But recent increase in immigration level has the opposite association. Overall, our results do not support the ‘left-behind’ narrative of Brexit. Instead, we show a strong cultural dimension in Brexit support.
Tak Wing Chan is a Professor of Quantitative Social Science at University College London, Institute of Education. He has previously taught at Universities of Oxford, Surrey, and Warwick. His main research interests are social inequality and mobility, demography and the life course, and the sociology of culture.