political

The most detailed ward breakdown of European referendum results

The BBC has been investigating:

Since the referendum the BBC has been trying to get the most detailed, localised voting data we could from each of the counting areas. This was a major data collection exercise carried out by my colleague George Greenwood.

We managed to obtain voting figures broken down into smaller geographical units for 178 of the 399 referendum counting areas (380 councils in England, Wales and Scotland, with a separate tally in Gibraltar, while in Northern Irelandresults were issued for the 18 constituencies).

This varied between data for individual local government wards, wards grouped into clusters, and constituency level data. In a few cases the results supplied were even more localised than ward level. Overall the extra data covers a wide range of different areas and kinds of councils across the UK.

Electoral returning officers are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, so releasing the information was up to the discretion of councils. While some were very willing, in other cases it required a lot of persistence and persuasion.

Some councils could not supply any detailed data because they mixed all ballot boxes prior to counting; some did possess more local figures but simply refused to disclose them to us. Others did provide data, but the combinations in which ballot boxes were mixed before counting were too complex to fit ward boundaries neatly.

The conclusion from this detailed analysis?

  • The data confirms previous indications that local results were strongly associated with the educational attainment of voters – populations with lower qualifications were significantly more likely to vote Leave. (The data for this analysis comes from one in nine wards)
  • The level of education had a higher correlation with the voting pattern than any other major demographic measure from the census
  • The age of voters was also important, with older electorates more likely to choose Leave
  • Ethnicity was crucial in some places, with ethnic minority areas generally more likely to back Remain. However this varied, and in parts of London some Asian populations were more likely to support Leave
  • The combination of education, age and ethnicity accounts for the large majority of the variation in votes between different places
  • Across the country and in many council districts we can point out stark contrasts between localities which most favoured Leave or Remain
  • There was a broad pattern in several urban areas of deprived, predominantly white, housing estates towards the urban periphery voting Leave, while inner cities with high numbers of ethnic minorities and/or students voted Remain

You can read the BBC’s full analysis here. As for why this sort of analysis matters in particular for the Liberal Democrats, see the pamphlet I wrote with David Howarth.

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