Well, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “it’s a funny old world”. The implications of the UK’s vote to leave the EU will be many, and at least some of them may be profound. There will be plenty of time to assess the broader implications, as they unfold. For now, I’m just going to look at some of the information we have regarding how people voted.
The performance of the pollsters in this referendum will be subjected to detailed scrutiny and, in at least some cases, criticism. But on one matter at least, they appear to have been absolutely correct. With regard to the different nations of the UK there had been a consistent pattern in the polls over the last few months: Scotland was clearly pro-Remain; Northern Ireland was also pro-Remain, although somewhat less so; and things looked much closer in both England and Wales, with Wales tending to be marginally more pro-Remain than England. And that is exactly how it turned out. These are the figures for voting (and turnout) by nation:
|Nation||% Remain||% Leave||% Turnout|
Strikingly, the two nations that voted for Remain, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have both actually become significantly more pro-EU since 1975. Then, only 52.1% of people in Northern Ireland and 58.4% in Scotland voted for Remain. Wales and England have both travelled a long way in the other direction: 41 years ago, 64.8% voted Remain in Wales, and 68.7% in England.
It is also interesting that turnout was lower in the two pro-Remain nations. This didn’t change the result – even if both Scotland and Northern Ireland had had the same turnout rate as England, then Leave would still have won. It may be simply that the referendum engaged more people in England and Wales. But there may also have been some element of voter fatigue – and also activist fatigue – in Scotland, in particular, which has had a lot of campaigning and voting over the last three years.
What about the vote in Wales? How did Wales come to vote Leave? Answering that question in detail will take plenty of further analysis. But we can see which areas voted Remain and Leave. I’ve listed the 22 Welsh local authorities here in order of how they voted, from the most pro-Remain to the most pro-Leave:
|Local Authority||% Remain||% Leave||% Turnout|
|Vale of Glamorgan||50.7||49.3||76.1|
|Rhondda Cynon Taf||46.3||53.7||67.4|
|Neath Port Talbot||43.2||56.8||71.5|
So only 5 of the 22 Welsh local authority areas voted for Remain. One of them most striking things about this result is that every single one of the valleys authorities voted for Leave – many of them in very large numbers. It must be of great concern to Labour, the dominant political party in the valleys for decades, that these communities so strongly rejected the party’s message to support the UK’s continuing membership of the EU.
But then a notable feature of the results is just how many prominent Welsh politicians, of various parties, found themselves on the wrong side of their own local communities. Among those who supported Remain, First Minister Carwyn Jones saw his Bridgend area vote to Leave; Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, and Labour Shadow Cabinet member Chris Bryant, saw their advice rejected by the voters of the Rhondda (and the rest of Rhondda Cynon Taf); and Cabinet member Stephen Crabb took a different side from the majority of people in his native Pembrokeshire.
Meanwhile, on the pro-Leave side Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies also found himself on the opposite side of the majority of his fellow voters in the Vale of Glamorgan, as did David Davies in Monmouthshire. But that was not the case for all politicians. Former Welsh Secretary David Jones would have been delighted that the majority of voters in Clwyd followed his advice in supporting leave, while current Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns was (just) in the pro-Remain majority in the Vale of Glamorgan. And UKIP Assembly leader Neil Hamilton was also supported by the majority of voters in his home base – as 52.5% of voters supported Leave in Wiltshire.
How does voting behaviour in this referendum compare with previous ones? Well, the 1975 European referendum results were counted in the old counties of Wales. It may take some time to assemble the results for those – when I have them I will share them with you. Just as a bit of fun, though, I investigated the statistical correlation between voting in this referendum and in the 1997 and 2011 devolution referendums. And, put simply, there is no relationship! The correlation coefficient between 2016 voting and 1997 is 0.012 – in other words virtually no relationship at all. And the coefficient for 2016 compared with 2011 is 0.000 – absolutely no relationship whatsoever! So whatever else it was related to, voting in this referendum was not related – at the aggregate level at least – to how people voted on Welsh devolution either in 1997 or 2011.
A brief addendum to last week’s post on the voting patterns in the EU Referendum.
In 1975, votes were also counted by local authority area. However, in those days there were only 8 main Welsh local authorities, rather than the 22 that we have today. So comparing the results of today with those of 1975 could not immediately be done.
However, my friend Harry Hayfield has come to our psephological rescue. (Thank you, Harry!). He has computed the 2016 results into the local authority boundaries of 1975. That process generates the following figures:
|Old Local Authority||Remain||Leave||% Turnout||% Swing to Leave, 75-16|
|Clwyd||120,791 (44%)||153,948 (56%)||72.1||25%|
|Dyfed||98,732 (47%)||112,567 (53%)||74.1||21%|
|Gwent||132,230 (43%)||172,468 (57%)||71.3||19%|
|Gwynedd||54,135 (55%)||44,998 (45%)||72.9||16%|
|Mid Glamorgan||100,270 (46%||119,503 (54%)||68.6||11%|
|Powys||36,762 (46%)||42,707 (54%)||77.0||28%|
|South Glamorgan||138,469 (57%)||103,444 (43%)||71.4||12%|
|West Glamorgan||90,958 (46%)||104,937 (54%)||70.3||16%|
When one compares voting patterns in 1975 and 2016 on these boundaries, the correlation (for the technically minded, the Pearson’s r coefficient) between the % Remain/Leave votes in 1975 and in 2016 is 0.39. In other words, there is something of a relationship between voting patterns in the two EU membership referendums. But it is far from an overwhelmingly strong relationship.