Research suggests greater access to Higher Education could have reversed EU referendum result

Posted by ap507 at Aug 07, 2017 12:00 PM |
Findings from our Department of Mathematics suggest that greater access to Higher Education can influence political outcomes

Greater access to Higher Education could have reversed the result of the 2016 EU referendum, according to new research from our Department of Mathematics.

The paper, written by Dr Aihua Zhang and published in the journal World Development, suggests that access to Higher Education was the ‘predominant factor’ dividing those who voted Remain and those who voted Leave.

The research also suggests that greater access to higher and further education can produce different political outcomes - which has been demonstrated in the 2017 General Election, where it can be argued that voting populations with a higher education had a decisive effect on the result.

The research applied Multivariate Regression Analysis combined with a Logit Model to the real data to identify statistically significant factors that have influenced voting preference simultaneously as well as the odds ratio in favour of Leave.

Dr Zhang said: “The EU referendum raised significant debate and speculation of the intention of the electorate and its motivations in voting. Much of this debate was informed by simple data analysis examining individual factors, in isolation, and using opinion polling data.

“This, in the case of the EU referendum where multiple factors influence the decision simultaneously, failed to predict the eventual outcome. On June 23rd 2016, Britain’s vote to leave the EU came as a surprise to most observers, with a bigger voter turnout - 72.2% - than that of any UK general election in the past decade.”

The research also suggests that areas in England and Wales with a lower unemployment rate tended to have a higher turnout to support Leave while areas in Scotland and Northern Ireland with a higher proportion of university-educated British people have a higher turnout to support Remain.

The article has been widely reported on, including by the Independent, the Huffington Post, the National Student and Inside Higher Education, as well as extensively on Reddit and other digital platforms.

Listen to Dr Zhang's interview with Radio Sputnik World Service below: