Voting out of the European Union: Exploring the geography of Leave

Richard Harris, Martin Charlton

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate (Academic Journal)peer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
682 Downloads (Pure)


On Thursday June 23rd, 2016, a majority of the UK electorate voted in favour of leaving the EU by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%. Throughout the night, as the results were reported, the media spoke about London, Scotland and Northern Ireland versus the rest of country in regard to their support for the EU. In this commentary, I look at the geographical distribution of the share of the Leave votes and model it against the share of the electorate, by local authority and by region, using a multilevel framework. The model identifies both differences between countries and differences between regions but also more localised variations that depart from those trends. Areas with an older population were more likely to attract a higher share of the Leave vote, as were those with higher proportions of residents in lower supervisory and technical occupations and with residents born outside of the UK but in the EU. The referendum has revealed a less than United Kingdom, with notable differences between Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of London, and parts of the East Midlands, West Midlands and the East. However, London is not as pro-EU as might be anticipated given its social, ethnic and demographic composition, which may help explain why the Leave campaign won with a small margin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2116-2128
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number11
Early online date2 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • European Union
  • referendum
  • UK
  • votes
  • regions


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