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Investigating differences in Brexit-vote among local authorities in the UK: an ecological study on migration- and economy-related issues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-164
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number3
Early online date19 Sep 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 22 May 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 Sep 2017
DatePublished (current) - Sep 2017


During a non-binding referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU in June 2016, 51.9% of UK voters voted in favour of leaving the EU, also known as Brexit. However, the Local Authorities in the UK showed a wide variation in the referendum outcome. For 380 Local Authorities, the EU referendum outcome was linked to data derived from the 2011 Census, creating a database to investigate associations between local factors and the referendum outcome. This ecological study formulated and tested hypotheses related to migration and economic issues as those two topics dominated the EU referendum campaign. The results of multivariable generalised linear model analyses showed that the percentage of migrants arrived between 2004-2011 in local areas was positively associated with the proportion of Leave-votes. This indicates that the relative number of recently arrived migrants might have been a key factor in voters’ decision. Further research might focus on the origin of those migrants. Furthermore, in England the percentage of lower educated was positively associated with the proportion of Leave-votes. This indicates that England was divided along educational lines. Moreover, this study also found a positive association between the proportion of elderly with self-reported poorer general health and the proportion of Leave-votes. Although investigating local health outcomes was beyond the study’s aim, this result indicates that health issues might be of importance in understanding local differences in EU referendum outcomes. These findings provide us with a better understanding of the underlying factors of the Brexit-vote and directions for future research.

    Research areas

  • ecological study , European Union, United Kingdom, Referendum, Brexit, quantitative analysis

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